United Airlines boss Oscar Munoz calls passenger dragging incident a "mistake of epic proportions" in Congress grilling

Rebecca Smith
United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby
United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby (Source: Getty)

United Airlines' chief executive Oscar Munoz has called the forcible removal of a passenger from a United flight last month "a mistake of epic proportions".

Facing a grilling by Congress, Munoz has pledged his airline "will do better" after a public backlash following the incident, which was filmed and uploaded online. Passenger Dr David Dao was left with a concussion and a broken nose when he was dragged from an overbooked flight on 9 April.

Speaking at a House Transportation Committee hearing, Munoz apologised for the incident again, saying: "No customer should be treated the way Mr Dao was."

Read more: United Airlines will offer passengers up to $10,000 to give up their seat

The carrier reached a settlement with Dao last week.

The incident on the United flight sparked a debate over customer service on US airlines; the topic of the hearing today, which featured a range of airline executives in the spotlight.

United's chief executive said a range of policies are being rolled out to improve the airline's culture, including increasing the amount it will pay, up to $10,000, for customers to get off an overbooked flight.

Munoz said it was "not just about money for some folks" and added the carrier will no longer have law enforcement de-board anyone that has already been boarded.

William McGee, aviation consultant of the Consumers Union, told the Transport Committee that the treatment of Dao on board the flight last month "powerfully brought home, once again, that consumers are at the mercy of powerful airlines in an ever-more concentrated industry".

A range of issues were flagged by the Committee, including the cost of changing a booking. Representative Peter DeFazio asked why it costs so much, $200 upwards, to change a booking.

Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster said ahead of the hearing that it would give lawmakers "an opportunity to get much-needed answers about airline customer service policies and what is being done to improve service for the flying public".

Read more: Passenger dragged off United Airlines flight after it was overbooked

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