May 2 (UPI) -- United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz called the dragging of a customer off a plane "a horrible mistake" in testimony Tuesday before the House Transportation Committee.
He began the morning with an apology for forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight on April 9. The incident, caught on cellphone video, showed a bloodied and injured Dr. David Dao being dragged down the plane's aisle by police and airline employees.
United and Dao later settled out of court.
"The reason I'm sitting here today is because on April 9, we had a serious breach of public trust. No customer should be treated the way Mr. Dao was," Munoz said.
Munoz and other airline executives, as well as a Consumers Union aviation consultant, are testifying before the committee on Tuesday. The top committee members were critical of the condition of the nation's air travel, and warned executives they will face action from Congress if improvements are not made.
"Congress will not hesitate to act when your customers, our constituents, are not treated the way they deserve," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa, the committee chair.
Munoz said an investigation into the incident, which provoked worldwide condemnation, found that police should not have been involved and a seat shortage aboard the plane should not have occurred. The plane became overbooked on April 9 because four United employees needed to board the plane to travel to another airport and passengers did not come forward to voluntarily surrender their seats on the plane. United also determined it does not offer an adequate monetary incentive to passengers for voluntarily giving up their seats.
"We had a horrible failure three weeks ago. It is not who we are," Munoz said. "We will do better. Our employees did not have the authority to do what was right or use common sense. This has to be a turning point for 87,000 professionals here at United."
In testimony, William McGee, speaking for Consumers Union, noted, "We are not aware of other industries in America where the business is given this kind of free license to oversell the product, with so little accountability for failing to deliver. The needed change is that all denied boardings should truly be voluntary. The airline should pay whatever compensation is necessary to convince a passenger to willingly give up the seat."