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United CEO Munoz on hot seat as Congress examines air travel

United CEO Munoz on hot seat as Congress examines air travel

WASHINGTON — United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is likely to face pointed questions 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 of Pennsylvania said the hearing will give lawmakers “an opportunity to get much-needed answers about airline 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.

United President Scott Kirby will join Munoz at the hearing, along with top executives of American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

United and lawyers for Dao have declined to disclose financial terms of the settlement.

Chicago-based United said Thursday it will take a series of step to reduce overbooking of flights and will raise to $10,000 the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights. The airline also said it will improve employee training.

Dao’s attorney has praised the airline and Munoz for accepting responsibility and not blaming others, including the city of Chicago, whose airport security officers yanked Dao from his seat and dragged him off the United Express plane.

Dao was waiting to fly to Louisville, Kentucky on April 9 when the airline decided it needed four seats for Republic Airline crew members who needed to travel to work on another United Express flight in Louisville the next morning. When Dao and his wife were selected for bumping, he refused to leave.

Video of the incident has sparked more than two weeks of withering criticism and mockery of United. Munoz initially blamed Dao, but later said he was horrified by the event and called it a failure on United’s part.

United has vowed to reduce — but not eliminate — overbooking, which occurs when more tickets are sold than there are seats on the plane.

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Follow Matthew Daly: http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

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