NEW YORK: United Continental Chief Executive Oscar Munoz said Wednesday he would not resign his position, and again apologised for forcibly removing a customer from an overbooked flight.
Munoz was asked about calls for his resignation as leader of the embattled airline on the ABC show “Good Morning America” following widespread outrage at the company s actions in the incident Sunday.
“I was hired to make United better and we’ve been doing that and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” Munoz said.
Munoz reiterated his regret at the incident, which mushroomed into a global public relations disaster after a video showing passenger David Dao, 69, his face bloodied, being dragged off the plane went viral.
“Probably the word is shame comes to mind,” Munoz said after days of criticism and ridicule of the company on social media.
“The first thing I think is important is to apologise to Dr Dao, his family, the passengers on the flight, the customers, our employees,” he said.
“That is not who our family at United is,” Munoz said. “And you saw us at a bad moment and this could never — will never happen again on a United Airlines flight. That’s my premise and that’s my promise.”
Munoz expressed regret for his widely-criticized initial response to the debacle in which he appeared to put partial blame on the incident on the passenger, saying he had “defied” authorities and “compounded” the incident.
Munoz — who last month was named “US Communicator of the Year” by PR Week — pledged a “thorough review” of the airline’s procedures and said the carrier would not send law enforcement officials onto planes remove passengers.
The incident has spotlighted the common practice of overbooking and bumping passengers from flights, which airlines rely upon to avoid losing money on seats left empty by no-show passengers.
In this case, United needed to make room for a flight crew and called security personnel when no passengers volunteered to give up their seat.
A group of 21 senators on Tuesday sent a letter to Munoz announcing plans to examine the incident, while New Jersey governor Chris Christie called for the US Department of Transportation to suspend airlines from overbooking flights pending a review.
But Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian called overbooking a “valid business process” that is sometimes unavoidable due to weather delays and other factors.
“There are things that happen that create overbooking situations beyond just pure oversees,” Bastian said on an earnings conference call with analysts and reporters Wednesday.
“It’s not a question in my opinion as to whether you overbook; it’s how you manage an overbook situation,” he said.
Delta in 2016 had 1,200 denied boardings for the entire year or one in 100,000 passengers. Management of the problem, which involves compensating inconvenienced travellers with gift cards of as much as $1,000 or more, was praised in some media in comparison with United’s conduct.
“The key is managing it before you get to the boarding process,” Bastian said. “And that s what our team has done a very effective and efficient job over.”