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Congress Warns US Airlines to Improve Customer Service


United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, left, accompanied by United Airlines President Scott Kirby, appears on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017, to testify before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee oversight hearing.

U.S. lawmakers have put the nation's airlines on notice: Improve customer service or we will make you.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing for top airline executives to testify, and to determine how Congress might respond after a passenger was violently dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight.

“Seize this opportunity,” committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, told United CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline executives at a hearing. Otherwise, “we're going to act and you're not going to like it,” he said, predicting a “one-size-fits-all” solution that may serve some airlines but not all.

Munoz apologized repeatedly for the removal of David Dao, 69, who last month refused to give up his seat to make room for airline employees. The video of airport police dragging Dao from his seat went viral.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, holds up airline passenger rules as he questions United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz during the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, holds up airline passenger rules as he questions United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz during the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017.

“In that moment for our customers and our company we failed, and so as CEO, at the end of the day, that is on me,” Munoz said. “This has to be a turning point.”

Munoz was joined at the hearing by United President Scott Kirby and executives from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

American Airlines experienced its own public relations fiasco last month when a passenger video went viral, showing a woman on a plane in tears holding a child in her arms and another at her side after an encounter with a flight attendant over a baby stroller.

United and other airlines have announced policy changes regarding overbooked flights. Airlines have said they routinely overbook flights because a small percentage of passengers do not show up.

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