IATA DG and CEO Alexandre de Juniac warned against “more heavy-handed government oversight” in the aftermath of the United Airlines bumping incident.
In particular, de Juniac defended the practice of airlines overbooking flights, which has come under scrutiny following the incident in which passenger David Dao was violently dragged off of an aircraft after being involuntarily bumped.
“Everyone, including United, agrees there is no justification for what happened to passenger Dr. David Dao,” de Juniac said in a May 4 statement. “United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized repeatedly and is taking steps to ensure there is never a repeat.”
Although United Express flight 3411 on April 9 was initially overbooked, gate agents had resolved that situation by the time Dao and other passengers had boarded the Embraer E170 operated by Republic Airlines. A Republic crew then showed up at the gate to be transported on the flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville, Kentucky, necessitating more bumped passengers. Dao was forcefully removed from the aircraft by a Chicago Department of Aviation law enforcement officer after refusing to give up his seat for a crew member.
De Juniac said governments should not use the incident as an excuse to regulate overbooking. “The video was so shocking that it would be easy for lawmakers and regulators to get caught up in this groundswell of outrage and take steps to limit overselling of flights,” he said. “However, the management of overbooking has actually worked well for decades. It ensures that scarce capacity is efficiently utilized; we see that in today’s record load factors. Overbooking helps airlines avoid empty seats, and that helps to keep costs—and fares—low … We must be careful to not risk undoing the many benefits unleashed by the competitive forces of deregulation.”
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has said it will stop overbooking flights. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has called overbooking a “valid business process.” Airlines for America (A4A) president and CEO Nicholas Calio said this week that other US airlines are reviewing their overbooking policies.