Although video of a passenger being dragged from a United flight last month went viral, investors didn’t ask a single question about the incident at the airline’s annual meeting Wednesday in Chicago.
CHICAGO — United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said Wednesday that he wants the fallout from an incident where a passenger was dragged from a flight last month to be “a constant reminder of what we can do better on.”
Videos of the passenger, Dr. David Dao, being pulled from a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after refusing to give up his seat to make way for airline employees, quickly went viral. Consumers were outraged at Dao’s treatment and United’s response, and legislators threatened new regulation.
But six weeks later, the airline’s shareholders appear to have put the incident in the rearview mirror.
Investors didn’t ask a single question about the incident at the airline’s annual meeting Wednesday in Chicago, a meeting in which Munoz noted the airline’s stock rose 70 percent over the past year and hit a new all-time high May 9. That was exactly one month after Dao’s flight. It has since increased slightly.
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Munoz said the incident hasn’t affected bookings. United boarded 7.6 percent more passengers in April than the same month this past year, a significantly larger increase than those reported by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which were up 0.8 percent and 1 percent, respectively. May travel statistics haven’t been released.
As the airline works to implement policy changes promised in response to the dragged-passenger incident, it is turning its attention to a new challenge: preparing for a possible U.S. ban on laptops and tablets on flights from Europe.
In March, the United States announced large electronic devices would be banned from airline cabins on flights from eight countries — in response to fears those devices could hide bombs — and reportedly is considering expanding the ban to flights from Europe.
Munoz said his biggest concern is making sure the airline had a “heads up” that would give it time to prepare.
The airline has received “constant updates” from government officials, Munoz said, though the timing or scope of any potential ban isn’t clear.
“There will be repercussions, there will be people concerned, there will be delays as we do whatever is required. … But compliance with anything safety-oriented, we really can’t argue that,” Munoz said.
United is preparing as if the ban would affect airports throughout Europe, including establishing procedures for handling passengers’ devices and making sure it has enough employees on hand as travelers adjust to new rules, said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.