Airline Executives Grilled at Senate Hearing to ‘Find Out What Went Wrong’

By Paul Riegler on 4 May 2017
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Old Senate chamber in the Capitol

Old Senate chamber in the Capitol

The U.S. airline industry was in the hot seat on the Hill for the second time week as the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security held hearings about airline customer service in the wake of the forced removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight last month.

Congress, said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri who chairs the committee, wants “to find out what went wrong and what we are going to do to be sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Speaking on behalf of the airline industry, Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of Airlines for America, the trade association representing major U.S. airlines, said that carriers are listening to what the traveling public has to say and taking action to improve the travel experience. She emphasized that member airlines have already taken steps to change policies to ensure an incident such as what occurred on the United flight never happens again.

“U.S. airlines are focused and committed to treating every passenger with the respect and dignity they deserve,” she told the committee, citing examples of changes that include completely eliminating or reducing overbooking, prohibiting the use of law enforcement to remove passengers from a flight, and ensuring that no passenger is involuntarily removed from a flight for another passenger.

Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans testified, apologizing for the city employees who injured the passenger in the course of dragging him from the aircraft. Evans told the subcommittee that the incident was “deeply saddening and personally offensive.”

United’s president, Scott Kirby, also appeared and apologized for the incident.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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