* United will no longer call the cops when they overbook flights
* Response to viral video of passenger forcibly removed last week
* First class passenger threatened with arrest in a separate incident
In the face of widespread backlash, which has included a social media uproar, calls for a consumer boycott and a market value loss of more than $1 billion, United has updated its policy of removing passengers.
On Sunday, United had law enforcement officers forcibly remove Dr. David Dao, a pulmonary disease specialist, from his flight when the doctor refused to give up his paid seat on the overbooked flight to employees of the airline.
“This will never happen again,” CEO Oscar Munoz told ABC News. “We are not going to put a law enforcement official onto a plane to take them off… to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger. We can’t do that.”
Still, Munoz did not say anything about the practice of overselling tickets and then shifting seats in order to prioritize United’s employees over paying customers. The scope of the policy change is simply that the airline will no longer call the cops to solve any customer service problems that arise.
Dr. Dao is not the only United customer to come face-to-face with United’s use of law enforcement. Just last week, United threatened Geoff Fearns, the president of an investment firm that manages over $500 million in assets, with handcuffs.
After boarding the plane, Fearns was told by an airline employee that he would have to give up his seat to a higher priority customer. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me,” Fearns tells the L.A. Times.
“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” Fearns told the Times. “But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”
So far, an online petition calling for Munoz’s resignation has gathered 22,000 signatures. The social media rift, especially in Dao’s native China, is significant, as United controls 20% of the marketshare for flights between the United States and China. The airline has lost some $1 billion in market value since the scandal first broke on Sunday.