The fallout from the incident in which a customer was dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight continues with the announcement today that Southwest Airlines is planning to end the practice of overbooking flights.
According to the Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times, Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said that the airline had been thinking about ending the practice for “a long time” due to fewer and fewer no-show passengers, but that the issue gained more urgency after a viral Facebook video of the passenger being dragged from the United plane so that airline employees could fly prompted widespread outrage.
"We’re seriously reconsidering that practice. I’ve made the decision and the company’s made the decision that we’ll cease to overbook going forward," Kelly said during an interview on CNBC. "The last thing that we want to do is deny a customer their flight. We’re going to work very hard to eliminate as many pain points for travel ... as possible."
The news comes as United reaches a settlement with the passenger over the incident for an undisclosed amount.
“We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411,” the airline said in a written release. “We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do.”
“[United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz] said he was going to do the right thing, and he has,” Thomas A. Demetrio, one of the lawyers for the passenger, told the New York Times. “In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded.”
Yesterday United Airlines released a 10-point plan to improve its customer service after a review it conducted into the incident. In the plan the airline committed to the following:
- Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
- Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
- Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
- Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.
- Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
- Provide employees with additional annual training.
- Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
- Reduce the amount of overbooking.
- Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
- Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a "no questions asked" policy on lost luggage.