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United boss calls passenger dragging incident 'a watershed moment'


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United boss calls passenger dragging incident 'a watershed moment'

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United Airlines has assured its shareholders that it will rebound from the public relations disaster caused by a passenger being violently dragged from his seat on an overbooked plane at Chcago’s O’Hare Airport.

That statement came from Chief Executive Oscar Munoz as the carrier reported better than expected earnings for the first three months of the year.

The airline – which is the third-largest in the US in terms of passenger traffic – saw revenue rise 2.7 percent from the same period last year to $8.4 billion (7.86 billion euros).

Higher fuel costs and recent labour agreements led to a 5.1 percent increase in unit cost per available seat mile and meant that net income declined to $96 million (89.8 million euros), a 69.3 percent fall from the same quarter a year earlier.

In his latest apology the chief executive said: “In the first quarter of 2017, our financial and operational performance gives us a lot of confidence about the foundation we are building. It is obvious from recent experiences that we need to do a much better job serving our customers.”

“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,” Munoz added.

United’s shares declined 3.5 percent in early trading in New York on Tuesday.

Ban forcible removals

An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a bill to ban the forcible removal of travelers from flights by state or local government employees following the United incident.

The Airline Passenger Protection Act was sponsored by Republican state Representative Peter Breen.

Under Breen’s measure, passengers could not be removed from flights unless they were presenting a danger to themselves or others, an emergency was taking place or the passenger had caused a serious disturbance, according to a copy of the bill introduced in the state capital, Springfield.

“A commercial airline that removes validly seated customers without serious cause breaches the sacred trust between passengers and their airlines,” the bill said.

The legislation would also bar the state of Illinois from making travel arrangements, doing business with or having investments in any commercial airline that maintained a policy of removing paying passengers to make room for employees traveling on non-revenue tickets.

“The treatment of the passenger in last week’s incident at O’Hare is inexcusable and must be stopped,” Breen said in a statement. “It reflected badly on the airline, the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois.”

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