At Hearing Featuring United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, Larsen Shines Spotlight on Consumer Protection

May 2, 2017 Issues: Transportation & Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), the top-Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Aviation, today helped lead a hearing examining customer service problems associated with US airlines. Today’s hearing follows the forcible removal of a passenger from United Airlines Flight 3411, an incident which became a flashpoint in the relationship between US airlines and the flying public.

“Mr. Munoz, I want to make clear to you and all of the other airlines, including those who are not here, what happened on United Express 3411 cannot happen again,” said Larsen. “We’re here to discuss what went wrong and how such a scenario can be prevented from happening again. The incident that took place on April 9 was a result of United Airlines’ policy failures – failures your company took steps to recognize last week. But in truth these problems are not specific to United. Several of the airlines represented here today have recognized room for improvements in their own bookings, overbooking, and other policies. and have announced changes in the recent weeks. I’m hopeful these changes result in an enhanced focus on the paying customer going forward and better training and empowerment of front line employees who must apply the changes in their interactions with passengers.”

WATCH: "what happened on United Express 3411 cannot happen again."

Larsen went on to highlight efforts he is leading with Ranking Member DeFazio to enhance consumer protections: “this morning, Ranking Member DeFazio and I request that the GAO dive deeper into consumer protections for airline passengers. Understanding current protections and then identifying any gaps will be critical as we develop meaningful improvements in consumer protections for the flying public. Earlier this year Ranking Member DeFazio and I introduced legislation to address two surefire ways that ruin someone’s flight: unexpected fees and lengthy delays. The Know Before You Fly Act would ensure that airlines remain transparent when it comes to baggage fees and would require airlines to inform passengers at the time of ticket purchase what they will and will not do for passengers in the event of a widespread computer network failure.” A copy of today’s letter is available HERE.

Last month, Larsen and DeFazio requested that the U.S. Department of Transportation share any findings from the agency’s review of the April 9th incident on United Airlines Flight 3411. In March, Larsen and DeFazio introduced the Know Before You Fly Act, legislation that would direct airlines to be more transparent about what services will be provided to air travelers during mass flight delays and cancellations resulting from computer network failures, as well as require airlines to inform passengers about any baggage and ancillary fees at the front end of the transaction.

In July of 2016, a provision Larsen championed that requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to update long-delayed standards for airplane lavatory access among passengers with disabilities was included in the bipartisan agreement to extend the Federal Aviation Administration through September 30, 2017.