In a recent report, United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:UALB) finally admitted a number of mistakes in the incident when a passenger, David Dao, was violently dragged off a flight before takeoff. In the report United said it allowed internal policies to district from the need to treat passengers with dignity and respect.
In admitting its errors, the airline announced a new customer-first policy. With much different provisions from those in effect when the incident originally took place.
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Among the new rules, travelers who voluntarily give up their seat can receive up to $10,000 in travel vouchers. United employees will have authority to be more creative in getting bumped passengers to their destination. There will now be an automated system to identify passengers more willing to give up their seats and on flights where there are few if any such passengers, overbooking will be kept to a minimum.
Additional training will take place for United staff and there will be an app that will allow employees to immediately compensate customers when a service issue arises. The airline will use law enforcement on for “safety and security issues” and will no longer bump passengers once they have boarded a flight – except in the case of a safety or security issue.
Immediately after the original United incident Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE:DALC) said it would offer up to $9,950 to flyers who give up seats. In an effort to make it easier to identify passengers willing to give up their seats, Delta also distributed a memo empowering gate agents to offer up to $2,000 (previous amount was $800) and as noted, supervisors can offer almost $10,000, up from the previous limit of $1,350.
Other airlines said they were reviewing and, as need be, changing policies. American Airlines Group Inc. (TSX:AALC), for example, changed its rules to say no passenger who has boarded the plane would be removed to give a seat to another person.
Overselling flights is a fact of life in the airline business and entirely legal. It is also legal to remove passengers against their will – with compensation – but some in the industry are now saying that practice should stop.
Kill The Rabbit
Finally, in a “you can’t make this stuff up” twist, a recent news report revealed an incident in which a giant rabbit being transported by United from the UK to the U.S. died after landing in Chicago … apparently from a heart attack.
An animal expert suggested that flying in the cargo hold with predator animals may have caused the rabbit to become so frightened its heart gave out after landing. Statistically, animals fare well on United airplanes. In 2016 the airline transported 109,000 animals. Only 9 died.
It is worth noting that Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUVC) and JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ:JBLUC) transport animals differently from United. Both carriers require pets to travel with passengers. United is reviewing its policies.