Airline execs trapped in congressional hearing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Airline execs trapped in congressional hearing

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Some lawmakers — and frequent flyers — are acknowledging that airline executives are in a tough spot as they testify before lawmakers at a hearing on problems with U.S. air travel.

Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida said airline officials at the more than three-hour hearing "probably feel a lot like airline passengers: very claustrophobic and waiting for something bad to happen."

Republican Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia said the airlines executives were showing great patience at the sometimes pointed questions from lawmakers.

Woodall said: "You know you are having a bad day when you are lectured about customer service by members of Congress," who have an even lower public approval rating than airlines.

The House Transportation Committee is examining U.S. air travel after a highly publicized incident in which a passenger on a United Airlines flight was forcibly removed from a plane, sparking worldwide outrage.

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11:45 a.m.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee is urging United Airlines and other carriers to use the notoriety of a passenger's removal from a United flight to make changes that improve customer service.

Republican Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania says airlines should figure out what changes are needed and make them -- as soon as possible.

If the airlines do not make changes, Shuster said Congress is likely to step in.

He told the airlines executives: "Seize this opportunity, because if you don't, we're going to act and you're not going to like it."

Shuster said Congress is likely to impose a "one-size fits all" solution to improve customers' service, adding that a new law may serve some airlines but not all.

The transportation panel is holding a hearing on airline service after a passenger was forcibly removed from a United flight last month.

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11:16 a.m.

A congressman says United Airlines put its own needs above its passengers' needs when it forcibly removed a passenger after he refused to get off a flight to accommodate a crew member who wanted the seat.

Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington state told United CEO Oscar Munoz that "you made your problem the customer's problem" when passenger David Dao was removed from a plane in Chicago April 9.

Larsen says United "put the solution" to its problem on the customer, in this case, Dao, who was injured after security officers removed him from the Louisville, Kentucky-bound flight.

Munoz told Larsen he "couldn't agree more" and said United has changed its policies so passengers will never be removed from a flight once they are seated unless there is a security or safety issue.

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10:20 a.m.

The chairman of the House Transportation committee says a hearing Tuesday on airline customer service "won't be pleasant" for United Airlines and other carriers.

But Rep. Bill of Shuster of Pennsylvania says the hearing is needed to help ensure that hundreds of millions of air travelers are treated fairly.

Shuster said "something is broken" with U.S. airlines and "the obvious divide between passengers and the airlines needs to be addressed."

Shuster said Tuesday's hearing offers U.S. airlines a chance to say what they are doing to improve customer service and ensure that an incident like the one last month in which a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight is never repeated.

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10 a.m.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz again is apologizing for the forcible removal of a passenger last month from a United flight. Munoz tells Congress that Dr. David Dao, a passenger on a United flight, was treated "in a way that no customer — no individual — should ever be treated."

Munoz apologized to Dao and other passengers on the April 9 flight "for the terrible experience you had."

Munoz said he also is personally sorry for his immediate response to the incident, which he said "failed to communicate my concern and the devotion I have to our customers and to this company."

He vowed to do better and work to restore the trust of United passengers.

The House Transportation Committee is conducting an oversight hearing on the United incident and other passenger serviced issues with air travel.

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4 a.m.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will be the star witness as Congress examines customer service by U.S. airlines and how air travel can be improved.

The hearing by the House Transportation Committee comes amid worldwide outrage sparked when a passenger was dragged off a United flight after refusing to give up his seat to a crew member. The April 9 incident ignited a debate about poor service and a lack of customer-friendly policies on U.S. airlines.

Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said lawmakers want answers about customer-service policies and what is being done to improve service for the flying public.

United moved to head off criticism last week by reaching a settlement with passenger David Dao and issuing new policies designed to prevent customer-service failures.

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