All Airlines for America (A4A) member airlines are now committed to not removing a boarded passenger from an aircraft in a bumping situation and all are committed to ensuring crew being transported are booked in advance, A4A president and CEO Nicholas Calio said.
Speaking at the IATA Wings of Change conference in Miami, Calio said the recent incident in which United Airlines passenger David Dao was violently dragged off of an aircraft after being involuntarily bumped has led all US airlines, not just United, to thoroughly review policies. “Obviously, the entire industry sincerely regrets” what happened on United Express flight 3411, Calio said. “A mistake was made. It was a bad mistake. All of the carriers from A4A have reviewed their processes.”
A4A passenger airline members include Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines, Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines, New York-based JetBlue Airways, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Chicago-based United.
Calio noted that JetBlue already did not overbook flights before the United incident and Southwest has said it will stop overbooking in the current quarter. “Others are looking at their policies” regarding overbooking, he said. Although United Express flight 3411 on April 9 was initially overbooked, gate agents had resolved that situation by the time Dao and other passengers had boarded the Embraer E170 operated by Republic Airlines. A Republic crew then showed up at the gate to be transported on the flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville, necessitating more bumped passengers.
Dao was forcefully removed from the aircraft by a Chicago Department of Aviation law enforcement officer after refusing to give up his seat for a crew member. Calio said A4A members will no longer remove passengers from aircraft after they have been boarded absent security or safety concerns. He added that A4A members will make sure crew being transported are booked and checked in prior to the passenger boarding process.
United has made a series of customer service policy changes in the aftermath of the incident and other airlines may also make changes, Calio said. The US airline industry’s “reputation clearly has taken a hit,” he said. “This incident was a rarity, but one with an outsized impact that has to be dealt with.”
Calio acknowledged US airlines are trying to get ahead of potential regulations Congress is considering, and encouraged US lawmakers to refrain from imposing new regulations since the industry is taking action. “There will be those in Congress who want to regulate more,” he said. “Many members of Congress assume we don’t care about customers. But we compete on the basis of customer service.”
Airports Council International DG Angela Gittens, also speaking at the IATA conference, said proposed new regulations by members of Congress in the aftermath of the United incident are not unwarranted, but actual legislation is not necessary. “Sometimes the threat of a regulation is the best way to go,” she said. “The threat has already led to changes. It’s not necessary to do the regulation as long as we know that if we misbehave, new regulations will be coming. Congress has in effect said, be careful because we’re watching you.”