United Unveils 10 Major Policy Changes in Wake of David Dao Fiasco


Faced with a wave of outrage following the forced removal of a passenger on one of its flights, United Airlines has announced several substantial changes meant to “improve customer experience” while traveling with the carrier, the airline announced Thursday.

Among the revamped policies, is the possibility of a $10,000 “customer compensation incentive” for passengers denied boarding on any flight. Dr. David Dao, the 69-year-old customer violently dragged off United Flight 3411 on April 9, was originally offered a $400 incentive to give up his seat for an airline employee. The airline has faced a maelstrom of criticism and plummeting stock valuation after almost a month of negative press and damaged public perception.

The airline’s 10 policy changes, listed below, “are the result of United's thorough examination of its policies and procedures, and commitment to take action,” after the David Dao fiasco.

  • Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
  • Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
  • Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
  • Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.
  • Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
  • Provide employees with additional annual training.
  • Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
  • Reduce the amount of overbooking.
  • Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
  • Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a "no questions asked" policy on lost luggage.

First among the rules, is the use of law enforcement only in instances of an imminent security or safety threat. United’s increased compensation incentive for de-boarding a plane is also a nice gesture, although $10,000 represents the maximum amount forked over by the airline in this regard -- not a baseline for what a booted passenger can expect to receive if they are asked to leave a flight. 

After his garbled apology immediately after the Dao situation went viral, United CEO Oscar Munoz has offered a full-throated endorsement of his company’s new procedures, saying in a statement:

“Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect. Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize. However, actions speak louder than words. Today, we are taking concrete, meaningful action to make things right and ensure nothing like this ever happens again."

"Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what's right.  This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline. Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust."

Dao, who suffered a broken nose, two lost teeth, and a concussion during his scuffle with airport security officials, has reportedly reached a settlement with the airline. While the settlement figure is unknown, some surmise it should mirror a package along these lines: 

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.