‘You forget the people you’re carrying are human’: United CEO Oscar Munoz says they failed in ‘common sense’ when Dr Dao was viciously dragged from his flight and insists airline will never treat passengers like that again
United CEO Oscar Munyos has admitted that a lack of ‘common sense’ in his company’s policies and procedures was responsible for the violent ejection of Dr David Dao from one of its planes on April 9.
He told NBC News’s Lester Holt that the company had stopped putting its customers first when it ejected Dao so that staff members could board the overbooked flight.
‘We make sure half a million people every single day get to somewhere safely,’ he said.
‘When you have a complicated process like that the operation mindset becomes front and center and we forget sometimes that the people you’re carrying are human and have interests and have desires.’
‘Sorry’: United CEO Oscar Munoz (pictured) said Thursday that it was his fault staff put airline’s operation ahead of the welfare of its customers and he would introduce ‘common sense’ Injured: Dr David Dao (left and right) was violently ejected from an overbooked United plane because staff wanted his seat. Munoz said new policies would put customers first
Munoz took responsibility for the ejection – which left Dao bloody and mumbling, and he says caused him to lose teeth – and the corporate culture that led to it.
When asked by Holt if United couldn’t have used hire cars to ferry its staff around rather than the seats of paying customers, Munoz said: ‘Absolutely, and that’s the common-sense process that I failed our company to provide.
‘We should have done that immediately, it just wasn’t embedded in the policies and procedures.’
Those policies and procedures are now being overhauled, including better training for staff to develop creative solutions and an increase in compensation paid to those who give up their seats on overbooked flights.
Munoz promised that in the future United would ‘put the customer at the center of everything we do.’
He added: ‘We breached public trust and in a serious breach and we’re profoundly sorry for that.’
Training: Munoz said staff would be trained to come up with creative solutions to issues; more money would be given to people to give up seats; and there would be fewer overbooked flights
Munoz’s contriteness is likely an attempt to claw back credibility after bungling his initial response to the event, when he released a statement to employees, one of which said Dao brought it upon himself for being ‘belligerent’.
‘Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this,’ Munoz said in a statement to employees that was leaked after the incident.
‘While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.’
In the furor after Dao’s ejection from the plane, United’s stock plummeted and it lost almost $1 billion in days.
Munoz had been on track to become chairman until the incident, but will remain CEO for the foreseeable future.
He told Holt that was his choice.
‘I don’t think it’s the right time, A; and B… there needs to be actions, proof that I am sorry,’ he said.
In the wake of the incident, several airlines – as well as United – said that they were altering their policies regarding issues such as overbooking and compensation.
Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio told NBC his client had become ‘an unintended champion’ for the changes.
It was announced on Thursday that Dao had reached a settlement with the airline, but the exact figure was not made public.
Demetrio is also representing a woman who was allegedly hit in the head with a metal stroller after an American Airlines attendant tried to drag it out of her hands on Monday.
The incident, which was recorded by other passengers last Friday, saw the woman weeping while clutching one of her two babies at her side. That child was almost hit as well, witnesses said.
When asked about the American Airlines incident, Munoz said: ‘The industry is getting a black eye… you’ve caught all of us at a bad moment.’