House panel sets hearing on airlines after United incident

House panel sets hearing on airlines after United incident
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A House panel will hold a hearing next Tuesday to examine consumer airline issues in the wake of a viral video showing a passenger being violently dragged off a United Airlines flight earlier this month.

United CEO Oscar Munoz will be in the hot seat at the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing, along with high-level executives from American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. An aviation consultant for the Consumers Union is also slated to testify as a witness.

The high-profile hearing will focus on customer service issues and what can be done to improve the public’s flying experience, the panel said Friday.

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“Next week’s oversight hearing will give Committee Members an opportunity to get much-needed answers about airline customer service policies and what is being done to improve service for the flying public,” said Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) in a statement.

Calls for congressional hearings began shortly after security violently dragged a 69-year-old man from a United flight when he refused to give up his seat for an employee.

The incident has ignited a firestorm and put a greater spotlight on airlines’ treatment of passengers.

A number of lawmakers have introduced new bills that would target airlines’ overbooking and bumping policies and strengthen consumer protection. A Senate panel is also planning to hold a hearing on the issue next week.

But a number of airlines, including United, have already changed their customer service policies in the wake of the dragging episode.

Southwest has since promised not to overbook flights, while Delta has increased the amount of compensation that employees are allowed to offer volunteers to give up their seats.

And United laid out 10 new policy changes it has taken since the controversial incident.

The effort could help keep federal regulators off the industry’s back, especially as the heat turns up in Washington.

Congress will soon debate legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), where lawmakers are expected to push for new consumer protections.