United Airlines’ chief executive continued his apology tour on Monday (April 17), a week after a passenger was violently dragged off one of its flights for refusing to give up his seats to a crew member, creating a public relations disaster for the airline.
This time, Oscar Munoz’s remorse appeared atop the company’s quarterly earnings release, before it unveiled that, yes, it is still making money.
The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience, and I take full responsibility. This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company, and we are more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do. We are dedicated to setting the standard for customer service among US airlines, as we elevate the experience our customers have with us from booking to baggage claim.
United striving to become the standard-bearer for customer service might seem comical on the heels of a viral video of a bloodied passenger, but the bar isn’t set all that high. United says it wants set the standard for service among US airlines—which means it doesn’t have to compete with the pesky Gulf and Asian carriers with their plush cabins that often send them to the top of the travelers’ choice awards. In fact, no US airline at all made it into the top 2o rankings of the Skytrax World Airline Awards—”voted for by airline customers around the world”—in 2016.
United came in 68th place, down from 60 the year before, and well below its US competitors, Delta (35th) and JetBlue (53rd). (United did beat out American Airlines, which ranked 77th.) One reason, perhaps for the poor showing: United ranks highest among major US airlines in involuntarily denying boarding to passengers.
United seems to have gotten the hint from the social media vitriol that followed the incident: it needs to clean up its image. The airline announced late last week that it would no longer force seated, ticketed passengers to make room for crew and won’t call the police to remove them. Baby steps.