United Airlines Says It’s Bumping Fewer Passengers Since Dragging Scandal

A United Airlines jet taxis to a gate at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) - United Airline’s image took a beating in April because of an ugly incident caught on video involving a passenger who was dragged from his seat. Since an initial defensive response, the carrier has been working overtime to rebound from the scandal.

The Chicago-based carrier reported last week that the number of passengers involuntarily denied seats has fallen sharply following the fracas involving Dr. David Dao, who was yanked from his seat by airport police and dragged down the aisle of the plane preparing to head from Chicago to Lexington, Ky.

United said 260 travelers were involuntarily denied seats in May and June, down 85 percent from 1,700 in the same two months in 2016.

The carrier’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, said the airline has adopted most of the 10 changes it promised in response to the Dao incident.

The promised changes include increasing the incentive payment offered passengers to voluntarily give up a seat on an overbooked flight to $10,000 and assembling a team to find creative ways to get travelers to their destinations when flights are overbooked.

The airline also cut back on the paperwork required to reimburse passengers for lost luggage.

“These changes amount to a lot more than just a policy shift,” Munoz told analysts. “Clearly it’s more of a … paradigm shift (for) our culture and mind-set of our employees and our management.”

The company’s finances haven’t suffered from the public relations nightmare caused by the Dao incident. United last week reported a profit of $818 million for the three-month period that ended in June, up 39 percent from the same period last year.

In a previous report, United said it served 71.3 million passengers in the first six months of the year, a 4.2 percent increase from the same period in 2016.