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By Akanksha Kar
Last April, an incredibly gruesome and unfortunate event took place in Louisville Kentucky, where a passenger was dragged across a United Flight aisle simply because he did not want to give up his seat for a crew member in an overbooked flight. Law enforcement left Dr. Dao severely injured with blood pouring out of his mouth, missing two teeth and having suffered a concussion. United chief executive Oscar Munoz made it clear in a statement that It was completely the fault of the airline to overbook a flight in the first place, saying that “our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right.”
Since then, United has been working to fix this issue with not only the victim, but also with their market of customers, in order to improve their brand image. After issuing an apology to the public, United has identified four faults of their own from the situation that day. Firstly, they admitted that calling law enforcement was unnecessary when a security issue was not even present. Secondly, their planning was incredibly poor when rebooking crew into the overbooked flight. Third, they failed to properly communicate with passengers about compensating them sufficiently in order to voluntarily give up their seat. Lastly, they admitted to not have trained their crew to properly handle situations like with Dr. Dao.
Apart from that, they have implemented some significant changes in the way they will now run their operations:
- Law enforcement shall not be called to enforce the airlines’ policies. It will only be used when there is a real threat to security.
- Already boarded passengers will not have to give up their seats unless their is a safety issue onboard.
- United will now offer up to $10,000 of compensation to voluntarily give up your seat.
- There will be a “customer solutions team” to assist gate agents in getting fliers to their destinations. The team will also help crew find alternative options rather than deboarding passengers.
- Travelling crew must be booked at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
- Starting from this August, United will add new annual training for its agents “that will equip them to handle the most difficult of situations.”
- During check-in, United will ask passengers whether they are willing to give up their seat for compensation, rather than waiting till the last minute.
- It is cutting back on over-booking the last flights of the day like flight 3411.
- United is issuing a new app where flight attendants and gate agents can issue out airmiles or offer compensation otherwise “when a disservice occurs.”
- The airline is also compensating for missing luggage. If a bag goes permanently missing, United is adopting a “no-questions-asked” policy where they will pay $1,500 for the bag and its contents.
Apart from the fact that United has faced a whole lot of criticism and lost a fair amount of their customer base since the incident, hopefully these new rules will help in assuring customers that they really are working on their customer service policies and ensuring an overall better flying experience.