United CEO Oscar Munoz apologizes to outraged lawmakers after passenger incident

WASHINGTON, May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday threatened United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Munoz and other airline executives with legislation to force improvements as they took carriers to task after a passenger was dragged off an overbooked flight last month.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle, many of whom fly back and forth to their districts weekly, recounted their own frustrations with delays and overbooking.

"If we don't see meaningful results that improve customer service, the next time this committee meets to address this issue I can assure you will not like the outcome," said Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives' transportation committee.

RELATED: All of United Airline's recent PR nightmares

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All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares
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All of United Airlines' recent PR nightmares

1. United Airlines Flight 3411

Footage of Dr. David Dao being dragged off United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago, Illinois, to Louisville, Kentucky, went viral on April 10.

The incident, in which Dao lost teeth and broke his nose, sparked international uproar and turned into a public relations nightmare for the carrier.

Dao will be suing the company, according to his attorney.

2. Second United Airlines passenger comes forward

Amid the social media firestorm set off by Dr. Dao's incident, a second passenger came forward to say that he, too, recently experienced mistreatment on a different United Airlines flight.

Geoff Fearns, 59, told KCAL he was removed from his first-class seat on a flight from Kauai, Hawaii to Los Angeles, California last month.

Although Fearns said he tried to resist the flight attendant's orders at first, he eventually caved once she threatened to have him put in handcuffs.

3. Scorpion falls from overhead bin and bites passenger

A Canadian couple's Mexican vacation came to an unfortunate end when they were flying home to Calgary from Houston on April 11.

Richard and Linda Bell were on a United Airlines flight when a scorpion fell from an overhead bin onto Richard's head.

He dropped it on his plate, then picked it up again, when the scorpion stung him.

The animal was stomped on and thrown in the toilet.

Emergency services were called in, but Bell was reportedly not in distress. He declined medical treatment.

4. Woman claims she was sexually harassed by drunk man on United Airlines flight

A New Jersey woman said that United Airlines flight attendants continued to serve alcohol to a visibly inebriated passenger after she complained that he sexually harassed her.

Jennifer Rafieyan was traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to Phoenix, Arizona, with her 12-year-old daughter when the drunken passenger was escorted onto the plane.

Over the course of the flight, Rafieyan said the man repeatedly groped her and rubbed her legs and knees, while occasionally kissing her hands and putting his head on her shoulder.

Rafieyan reported the passenger to a crew member after her daughter got up to use the bathroom, but it did little to help her situation.

"She said, 'I'm so sorry. We felt really bad putting him next to you, but there was nothing we could do. He was doing the same kind of stuff to the other flight attendant,'" Rafieyan recalled.

5. Couple kicked off United flight on way to their wedding

A couple was kicked off their United flight as they were headed from Houston to Costa Rica for their wedding on April 15.

Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell had boarded their flight when they noticed a passenger napping across the row they were supposed to be sitting in.

Instead of waking up the snoozing man, the pair decided to sit a few rows in front of their assigned seats.

Hohl said that after he and Maxwell sat down, a flight attendant asked if they were in their assigned seats. When the couple said no and explained why they had moved, Hohl said the attendant declined their request for an upgrade and asked them to return to their original seats.

Hohl said that although he and Maxwell did as they were told, a U.S. Marshall later boarded the flight and asked them to get off the plane.

6. United Airlines CEO's heart transplant comes under scrutiny

Following United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz's apology over Flight 3411, people began questioning whether his wealth played a role in the heart transplant he received last year.

Munoz had a heart attack on October 15, 2015, one month after he took over as United's new CEO.

Less than three months later, he received a new organ.

Since the waiting list for a new heart was reportedly up to 4,200 people at the time, questions have risen about how he was able to get a new heart without waiting very long.

7. Dad accused of trafficking his own daughter on United plane

The wife of a Mexican man who was accused of trafficking his own 3-year-old daughter on a United Airlines flight spoke out about the incident on April 17.

Maura Furfey, a Spanish teacher and mother of three, says that her husband and daughter were returning from a trip to Mexico to visit her husband's mother and great-grandmother, "who they see but once a year."

Apparently another passenger, who Furfey says was "obviously inebriated," expressed concern to an airline employee that the fair-skinned child didn't look like her Mexican father, raising suspicion that he had kidnapped her.

The mother of three says she burst into tears when she learned the details of what her family had gone through.

8. United Airlines stock plummets $800 million amid controversy

United Continental lost about $800 million in total value the day after the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off Flight 3411 became a major news story.

Shares in the company declined about 3.8 percent in mid-morning trading, a steep drop for a major company like United.

9. Woman claims United Airlines employee forced her to back of plane in tears without explanation

A New York woman filed a $150,000 lawsuit against United Airlines, claiming she was forced from her business class seat to the back of the plane by an employee without any explanation during a flight last year.

Karen Shiboleth, a 24-year-old Columbia graduate, was traveling to London to attend a master's degree program at Kings College on September 10, 2016.

Shiboleth claims that ten minutes prior to take off, a United employee boarded the craft and demanded she vacate her seat in United BusinessFirst and move to the back of the plane.

The lawsuit alleges that nobody would explain to Shiboleth why she was being moved, and that when she expressed her confusion, the employee took her arm "without consent" and forced her to a middle seat in the back of the plane.

To make matters worse, the unidentified worker reportedly called her a "c--t" during the interaction, bringing Shiboleth to tears.

10. Professional golfer claims his clubs were snapped on United Airlines flight

An Australian professional golfer took to Twitter on April 24, claiming his golf clubs were destroyed during a recent United Airlines flight.

Veteran golf pro Matthew Goggin said he opened his checked bag after his trip, only to discover that his precious clubs were snapped in two.

"First time in 20+ years I've opened my bag to find this..." he wrote. "I was going to complain but I must admit I'm a little intimidated by United."

11. Giant rabbit mysteriously dies aboard United Airlines flight

The sudden death of a 10-month-old continental giant rabbit in the cargo of a United Airlines flight prompted an internal investigation.

Simon, a 35-inch behemoth, was traveling from London's Heathrow to Chicago's O'Hare to meet his new "celebrity owner" when he mysteriously died in the airline's care.

Annette Edwards, Simon's breeder, says that both she and Simon's buyer are extremely upset and confused by the incident.

"Simon had a vet's check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle," Edwards said. "Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I've sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before."

Simon was the son of the world's current largest rabbit, Darius, who is a whopping 51 inches long.

The 10-month-old rabbit was reportedly on track to out grow his father and eventually steal his title.

United Airlines' says PR team is hiring

Feeling up for a challenge? 

There are currently three job openings in Houston, New Jersey, and California for a brand manager in the United public relations department.

Good luck with that.

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"We are not going away, we will hold you accountable and we expect real results," said Shuster, a Republican.

Republicans, however, largely back President Donald Trump's push to cut rules and regulations they say hamper business growth. The White House has not weighed in on whether new rules are needed to respond to airline customer service issues.

Consumer anger at cost-cutting by airlines boiled over when David Dao, 69, was violently dragged from a United flight at a Chicago airport on April 9 to make room for crew members.

Fellow passengers shot video of the incident, sparking backlash against the airline, which initially resisted taking blame.

SEE ALSO: This is the airline that Americans hate flying most (it's not United)

Munoz took two days to apologize for the incident. In an often-tense hearing room on Tuesday, he apologized again.

"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 told lawmakers.

"This has to be a turning point."

The hearing was viewed a test of how the Republican-led Congress would respond to an incident that enraged air passengers across the country.

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 black eye last month when a video went viral showing a woman in tears holding her young child after a fight with a flight attendant over a baby stroller.

"Clearly what happened was wrong," said Kerry Philipovitch, the airline's senior vice president of customer experience.

United reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum with Dao last week and changed its policies by reducing overbooked flights and offering passengers who give up their seats up to $10,000. The airline has promised to no longer call on law enforcement officers to deny ticketed passengers their seats.

RELATED: 10 safest low-cost airlines in 2017

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10 safest low-cost airlines in 2017

Aer Lingus

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Flybe

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HK Express

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JetBlue

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Jetstar Australia 

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Jetstar Asia

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Thomas Cook 

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Virgin America

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Vueling

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WestJet 

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But Munoz defended the policy of overbooking, saying it helps the airline better serve passengers. American Airlines said it would not end the practice.

Alaska Airlines told the committee it is considering changes to its overbooking policy.

Southwest said it would upgrade its reservation system and change its cancellation policy so that it would end overbooking altogether.

"We are not going to go broke, I promise you that," said Bob Jordan, executive vice president at Southwest. Jordan said the airline expects the change will cut the number of incidents where customers are denied boarding by about 80 percent.

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