United Reveals 10 Policy Changes Following “Dragging” Incident

Filed Under: United

By now, just about everyone has heard of the situation that transpired on a United flight a couple of weeks ago, where Dr. Dao was physically dragged off the plane because they needed his seat. Almost as bad as that was United’s terrible response, which backfired horribly.

Eventually United’s CEO issued a sincere-seeming apology, and also had an interview with Good Morning America in which he apologized again. When Oscar Munoz finally issued an apology, he said that he’s committed to fixing what’s broken, including a thorough review of their current procedures in place. He promised to communicate the results of that review by April 30.

Well, United has just released the findings of their review, a few days ahead of schedule. View from the Wing shares the 11 page report that United issued regarding the incident and how they’re changing their policies. In addition to that, here’s the press release, which I’m sharing in full, as it’s interesting and isn’t that long:

United Airlines (UAL) today announced 10 substantial changes to how it flies, serves and respects its customers. The changes are the result of United’s thorough examination of its policies and procedures, and commitment to take action, in the wake of the forced removal of a customer aboard United Express Flight 3411 on April 9.

United commits to:

  • Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
  • Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
  • Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
  • Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.
  • Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
  • Provide employees with additional annual training.
  • Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
  • Reduce the amount of overbooking.
  • Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
  • Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a “no questions asked” policy on lost luggage.

While several of these policies are effective immediately, others will be rolled out through the remainder of the year. The facts of what happened aboard Flight 3411 and a full review of United’s changes can be found at hub.united.com.

Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines, said, “Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect. Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize. However, actions speak louder than words. Today, we are taking concrete, meaningful action to make things right and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

“Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right.  This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline.  Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust,” he added.

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I commend United on coming up with 10 areas where they’d like to change.

It sure sounds like United is trying to eliminate the possibility of involuntarily denying boarding to passengers as much as possible going forward. They claim they’re going to reduce the degree to which they overbook on flights where they historically have a hard time soliciting volunteers, especially on smaller planes. In general eliminating overbooking is unnecessary, you just need to empower and incentivize agents to be able to do what it takes to get passengers to volunteer.

It sounds like United wants to start soliciting volunteers earlier now, and also increase voluntary denied boarding compensation (which follows Delta’s recent policy change).

United is saying the right things, and seems to be taking the situation seriously, though only time will tell if anything actually changes.

What do you make of United’s 10 action items?

  1. does all of this only apply to mainline UA or also to UX? Will UA provide all of this training and will all of these policies also apply to UX?

  2. The question here is what exactly they mean by “safety and security.” Would someone stealing my E+ seat and refusing to move back to E- constitute a breach of safety and security? I suppose they’re technically committing theft, so even though it’s non-violent that would be considered insecure?

  3. The most important should be – Allowing the gate agents to increase the voluntary compensation without them having to go to supervisors and customer service.
    If the agents had that power initially this may not have happened.
    They still did not show it here

  4. What does the last bullet about permanently lost luggage help in bumping situations? Am I missing something or is thing something just to improve the reimbursement process?

  5. Bullet point 4: “…or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.”

    Customers? Wish they’d done that with the crew that needed to get to Louisville from Chicago!

    Ground transportation: drag customer off a plane? Sorry, couldn’t help it.

  6. I just hope that strong arming seated passengers is considered an assault against a passenger, rising to a felony. Otherwise, our War on Terror will have become our War Of Terror.

    And if it’s anything like our Decades-old War on Drugs, this will not end well for us.

  7. Zymm, what about when the flight attendant kicks me out of my E+ seat because a wheelchair or unaccompanied child needs it? I paid for it but am not getting it. Is it also theft on the part of the company?

  8. I’m also skeptical of the “safety and security” exceptions. By that basis, the captain/crew could still order any passenger removed for ANY reason because they’re a “safety” or “security” risk… and we all know that means passengers can be deemed so without any verifiable justification because the pilot/crew “feels” unsafe or insecure. Like when a passenger won’t obey stupid/unwarranted rules imposed at the whim of a FA/GA/pilot. Don’t get me wrong — if there are legitimate security/safety concerns I have no problem. But it’s been established airline crews have abused that policy because of their ignorance and prejudice (kicking off muslims praying, pax reporting “suspicious” actions by “foreigners.,” etc.) Unfortunately, no amount of employee training can instill common sense.

  9. Just took a flight yesterday and the Captain and FAs announce they are there for passengers safety. That’s where things have gone downhill. I see it as like a teacher should protect their students while they are in school. But their first and foremost responsibility is teaching. If an incident arises, then the priority shifts to safety. Foreign airlines understand that their first priority is to provide customer service. US based airline crews treat us like they are doing us a favor by “saving” us because their number one priority is safety. Until that entire culture changes, no policy change will make it better.

  10. Almost all of these are lip-service bullshit. Anything that’s not quantifiable is bogus and United should be held accountable to actually measure success. The only one on here that can be measured is the 60-minutes-or-greater rule for crews…and maybe the automated system for soliciting volunteers – and even that’s bogus because simply creating the system is worthless unless it’s utilized.

    Otherwise everything else is ridiculously subjective and is still going to rely on surly FAs and ground staff to “use their best judgment” when deeming something a “safety or security risk”. And let’s be brutally honest: as hard working as a lot (or some of, depending on how you frame it) FAs and ground staff may be, they weren’t hired for their problem-solving skills or higher reasoning abilities or enhanced levels of motivation and go-getterness. They will continue to be provide the minimum efforts required as outlined by UAs (new) policy changes and we are going to continue to see Dragging Incidents, Stroller Incidents (though that wasn’t United, but I’m sure United is at batting practice right now), and other [insert terrible treatment] Incidents in the future.

    Do NOT let up. Hold UA accountable. Hold other airlines accountable. Continue to video interactions with employees and share to social media. As consumers, we can’t become complacent.

  11. @Bitzer
    That’s a downgrade and there is set compensation in place (though you usually have to request it). That’s provisioned for in the contract of carriage.

    Additionally, I was speculating on one way these regulations might be interpreted. There are some significant gray areas here. If passengers do something that’s a blatant violation of the contract of carriage, yet they do so in a calm and peaceful manner, at what point is that a matter of safety and security? If there is an unoccupied seat in first class, can I now go sit in it without fear of being removed, just as long as I race the other passengers and sit in it first?

  12. And while UA continues to make these “promises”, I am going to ask again: What about a replacement for SHARES? If UA wants to empower its employees, the employees need tools that can provide these so-called “promises” to customers. Let’s face it: SHARES still sucks. Employees many times say “no” to a customer just because the employees cannot be bothered to fight SHARES to make SHARES do anything. So without a replacement for SHARES as being an item on UA’s to-do list, then an acceptable level of customer service will never be given to customers.

  13. They’re missing one big thing: Focusing on the needs and desires of their customers and getting rid of pissy staff who could care less and have forgotten that customers are the ones funding their paychecks. “Empowering employees” can go very wrong if you have employees with the wrong mindset.

    The only “improvements” I see out of this are increased VDB amounts and possibly the creation of an automated VDB system like Delta uses. In other news, United doesn’t do this??!? It’s 2017, computers aren’t exactly a new thing nor is memory/storage an issue these days.

    and of course…does this apply to mainline UA or also the regionals? If it doesn’t include the latter, than all of this is a waste of time since many flights people take will touch a regional at some point.

  14. Ha, ha, ha! I cannot wait for the whining the first time a UA flight is cancelled because a last minute deadhead crew is not there because of the 60 minute rule. Yeah, make sure you hold United accountable here.

  15. @willy if the people at united cant figure out the logistics of where they need crew until less than 60 minutes before a flight then people need to be fired for incompetence.

  16. @bill you clearly have no idea about the minute to minute changes that occur while running an airline operation. There isn’t enough space here to catalog the instances of last minute crew and aircraft reassignments, especially so during irrops.

    I’m no apologist for the airline industry, but for the numbers of people and cargo they move everyday it’s pretty amazing.

  17. Has anybody here actually read the report and the details behind the policy changes and training implementations they plan on having? Or are we just reading the copied press release and bringing out the pitchforks again based on that?

    A policy every airline has had sine time began failed. It just happened to United this time. If you don’t think every airline (Delta beat them to the punch) is already looking at making these revisions – silently – as to not draw attention to the fact it could have happened to them; there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale.

  18. @ Potreroflyr – You mean like how they removed that Italian professor from an AA flight for writing math equations because a passenger “knew” he was an Arab writing in terrorist plots in Arabic? Yep, only in America could this happen lol.

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