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“Fly the Friendly Skies” is United Airlines’ catchphrase for its marketing campaigns. It has not been a friendly past month for the airline company having to deal with social media retaliation . Every one has probably watched the widely publicized video of the April 9 incident involving 69 year-old Dr. Dao being dragged out of his flight.
According to his lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, Dr. Dao, sustained a concussion and a broken nose and lost two teeth and had to undergo surgery to repair his broken sinuses. He has received an undisclosed amount of settlement from United for the unpleasant circumstances.
Somehow, that incident stood as a catalyst for change in an industry that’s not too customer centric. Delta similarly did a self check following the incident and released updated policies for its passengers and crews. United has been trying to regain its footing. To be true to its company’s values and to regain the public’s trust, United announced changes to its existing policies and protocol following Delta’s lead, which announced their changes April 14, 2017.
Starting April 28, 2017, United Airlines is cutting back on overbooking and has bumped its cap for denied-boarding compensation to $10,000 from the $1,350 cap that most airlines use. United stated it would also implement a new automated check-in process that gives customers a chance to express their willingness to relinquish their seats in exchange for compensation.
Additionally, passengers who have boarded flights should never have to give up their seats, except for safety or security issues. The airline also said that it would no longer utilize law enforcement officers to remove passengers from its planes over booking problems. Crew members traveling to other flight assignments would also be booked into seats at least an hour before departure.
By June, United plans to have a “customer solutions team” that can identify alternative travel means for passengers and crews when needed, including flights to nearby airports and arranging for ground transportation to take them the rest of the way.
In an effort to regain its customers’ trust, United plans to begin a “no-questions-asked policy”, addressing an unrelated but equally frustrating issue of lost baggage. Customers will be automatically paid $1,500 for a bag. Claims above that will require documentation.
While these are great reactions to the unfortunate incident, we hope that airline staff would also receive additional training on better handling these matters. Someone could have just used their heads by moving on to the next passenger when Dr. Dao said he’s a doctor who needed to see patients the following day. Then maybe situations like this would be prevented and defused instead of fanning the flames.