Media Moves

Coverage: United Airlines CEO issues new apology

April 12, 2017

Posted by Chris Roush

UnitedUnited Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a new statement on Tuesday afternoon, offering a second apology for the incident where a passenger was dragged off a United flight after refusing to give up his seat.

Dominic Rushe and David Smith of The Guardian had the news:

“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” Oscar Munoz wrote in a note to employees Tuesday, one day after video posted by fellow passengers showing police dragging the man off the plane went viral.

Munoz was criticized after his official statement on Monday described the violent removal as an effort to “re-accommodate” passengers. He also described the man as “disruptive and belligerent”. As the company’s share prices plunged on Tuesday, however, the executive turned attention back on to the company.

Nearly $1bn of the company’s value was erased in trading on Tuesday.Later that day, Munoz said he was committed to “fix what’s broken so this never happens again”. He pledged to review the company’s policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold flights and for partnering with airport authorities and local law enforcement.

The company plans to share results of the review by 30 April.

Avi Selk and Lori Aritani of The Washington Post reported that the second apology was an attempt to defuse a PR crisis:

The statement was the latest attempt from the airline to defuse a public relations crisis, which began when a now-suspended security officer yanked a man out of his seat Sunday, causing the man’s face to hit an arm rest, and then dragged him across the aisle floor back to the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Earlier Tuesday, a United spokesman  backed off the company’s initial claims that the flight was “overbooked” — rather than disrupted at the last minute to transport off-duty crew.

Munoz’s Tuesday afternoon apology came after a letter he sent to United employees became public. In it, he defended the flight crew’s behavior on the Louisville-bound plane.

And it came as international outrage sent United’s stock price falling, as disturbing videos of the incident went viral worldwide.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the videos “troubling” Tuesday but dismissed calls for a federal investigation into what he said should be “a very simple local matter.”

Alana Wise of Reuters reported that the Department of Transportation is also looking into the incident:

Lawyers for the passenger, Dr. David Dao, issued a statement late on Tuesday confirming his identity and saying that he and his family were “focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment” in a Chicago hospital.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched an inquiry into the incident, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for new rules to curb the airline practice of overbooking flights.

United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement on Tuesday apologizing to Dao without naming him. “I’m sorry. We will fix this,” Munoz said. “I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

On Monday, Munoz issued a memo to employees defending the company but not apologizing to the passenger.

Munoz, a former railroad executive who took over the helm at United in 2015, had already been under pressure from activist investors to improve the airline’s performance, including its customer relations.

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