United Airlines improved its operations in the second quarter after a viral recording of a passenger being dragged off a plane hurt its reputation. But the carrier plans more changes in the coming months, executives said Wednesday.
United completed more of its flights than its three major rivals, its flights were more punctual and its ratio of mishandled bags in April and May was lower, according to statistics presented during a quarterly earnings call.
“On the operational side, we finished this quarter as the No. 1 airline amongst our largest competitors in completion, on-time departures and on-time arrivals,” CEO Oscar Munoz said. “We look forward to continuing to build on this momentum in the second half of the year.”
A key point was an 85% reduction in involuntarily denying boarding, Munoz said. The airline took several steps after a passenger, David Dao, was dragged off a full flight in Chicago on April 9 to make room for a crew member. The airline apologized repeatedly and reached a settlement with the passenger.
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“It’s about providing our employees with tools, but also about the imperative to solve problems in the moment for our customers,” Munoz said of steps taken to avoid a similar problem in the future, such as no longer removing a passenger who has been seated.
United plans to experiment with encouraging passengers to change flights a few days in advance, if a plane is expected to be full, said Andrew Nocella, the chief operations officer.
The experiment is expected to launch in a few weeks and be relatively small, involving about 50 passengers, Nocella said. But it could expand if it proves successful, he said.
“This is something we continue to evaluate,” Nocella said. “We think it’s a great idea, and if it works and the customers appreciate it, a lot more to come.”
United also plans to revamp its social media team during the next quarter so that the large company can respond faster to events, Munoz said. The goal isn’t just to spin messages faster, but to prevent and resolve disputes, he said.
“We need to be more agile,” Munoz said. “I think the best thing that we can continue to do is refine our customer service experience models, training and people.”
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