United CEO’s First Interview Following Hostile Bumping Incident

Apr 12, 2017

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It’s been a crazy week so far — the country seems captivated by Sunday’s “bumpgate” incident, but with the exception of one incredibly disappointing statement and then a much more reasonable follow-up, we haven’t heard much from United’s CEO. Until this morning.

Today, United CEO Oscar Munoz sat down with ABC in his first interview following the incident that sent a man, David Dao, to the hospital. It’s unclear how this ordeal will end for the airline and its CEO, but Munoz does come off as sincere — in both his concern about the way employees and police handled Dao’s removal, and in his desire to overhaul procedures to prevent a similar incident in the future.

You can watch the full interview below; key points are summarized under the video.

Munoz’s most notable takeaway comes at the beginning of the interview, when he says:

This can never, will never happen again on a United Airlines flight. That’s my premise and that’s my promise.

How will he accomplish that? According to Munoz:

The use of law enforcement aboard an aircraft has to be looked at very carefully. They’re clearly there for a purpose of safety, and we want to make sure they protect us, but for other reasons I think that’s a policy we have to absolutely relook at.

He also explains his initial response:

I think my first reaction to most issues is to get the facts and circumstances. And my initial words fell short of truly expressing what we were feeling. And that’s something that I’ve learned from. The expression of apology… is an important part of a conversation like this. Because, again, that shame and embarrassment was pretty palpable for me and for a lot of our family.

Munoz also acknowledges that the airline’s front-line employees and supervisors don’t currently have the autonomy needed to “use their common sense” when working through situations like this. In the future, it sounds like Munoz is committed to empowering these employees to make decisions on their own, perhaps by allowing them to offer additional compensation (especially when passengers are removed after boarding a flight). He also said that the airline will no longer use law enforcement “to remove a booked, paid, seating passenger” — though in some cases (such as a truly abusive passenger), that promise may be difficult to follow through on.

Finally, the interviewer asked Munoz if he’d considering resigning. The answer was a resounding “no.”

Click here for more United Bumpgate coverage.

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