The 6 Most Turbulent Moments from the House Hearing with Top Airline Executives
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and executives from Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines faced off with the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, three weeks after Dr. David Dao, 69, was violently dragged off United Flight 3411 in Chicago. The hearing provided no shortage of turbulence, as congressmen and women from both sides of the aisle blasted the industry for abusing the public trust.
Here were six of its more explosive moments:
1. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
"What were the rules in place to determine who would be removed from the plane?" Johnson wanted to know.
"It was a simple automatic process, that dealt with, without all the complexity, what someone paid and whether they were enrolled in our mileage-plus program," the United CEO answered, before admitting that Dao's fare was one of the lowest of the passengers on his flight.
"What about the rest of you?" Johnson then asked the panel. "Is that how you determine who to mistreat?"
It was not. Munoz's colleagues unanimously denied boarding on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning the last person to check-in would get bumped.
2. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
"Why do you hate the American people?" Hunter opened before posing a second rhetorical question:
"How much do you hate the American people?"
Hunter, who flies weekly from Washington D.C. to San Diego, then debunked one of the airline industry's more notorious claims.
"What I have heard a lot of you talk about is competition. Explain that to me," he hammered. "Because I think that's a joke. It's an absolute joke, that there's competition within the airline industry."
"If you just look at San Diego, it's United Airlines," he continued. "I have no other options."
3. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
"You may think that you're looking at members of Congress," Norton told the executives. "But really you're looking at your customer base... most members of Congress (like Hunter) get on an airplane every single week."
"Are each of the airlines here willing to boil down what the customer's entitlements to a one-pager that the passenger could receive?" she asked.
When Munoz hesitated, Norton called on him directly. "I only have five minutes... Speak up first."
4. Michael Capuano (D-MA 7th District)
Capuano was adamant about holding the airlines to a higher standard going forward. "This doesn't stop today, and you will be judged on how it is implemented."
Having been bumped from flights himself, he told Munoz, "I want to know how to get that $10K [reimbursement] because believe me, I'll be flying United a lot more."
5. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)
"Pretty soon this committee is set to consider a proposal to privatize air traffic control and hand over billions of dollars in investments and assets that's going to be controlled by y'all, by the airlines," Titus said.
Given the industry's almost weekly scandals, she wondered:
"What do you have to show that you're going to be able to take over this corporation and do well by your customers?"
6. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
Esty began by reminding the panel of their "disturbing failures" as a customer service business.
"Frankly, no low ticket price makes up for a miserable experience," she added. Then, turning to the creeping privatization issue, she told Munoz, "If the market was functioning well, this could never have happened."
Watch: House Committee with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline executives (Full)