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Committee Blasts United Airlines, CDA for Missing Deadline

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    Committee Blasts United Airlines, CDA for Missing Deadline
    AP
    In this file photo, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz speaks in New York during a presentation on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

    The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said Friday it was "disappointed" United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation have not provided them with answers surrounding the forceful removal of a passenger on a plane at O'Hare International Airport this month.

    The committee had given the deadline of April 20, but reported both groups said they could not meet that deadline. 

    "Getting answers for the public about what happened and what can be done to prevent such an incident from happening again is a priority for the members of our committee," the officials wrote in a statement. "We find any further delay in getting necessary answers unacceptable."

    According to the statement, United Airlines said it would provide a full response by April 27 and the CDA said it would respond by April 26.

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    The CEO of United Airlines said earlier this week no one will be fired over the incident — including himself.

    CEO Oscar Munoz said Tuesday that he takes full responsibility "for making this right," and he promised more details later this month after United finishes a review of its policies on overbooked flights.

    David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky physician, was bloodied and dragged off the United Express plane by Chicago airport officers who had been summoned by United employees when Dao wouldn't give up his seat. The three officers have all been suspended.

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    United has been pummeled on social media — #BoycottUnited is a popular hashtag — and late-night television.

    Company executives said it's too soon to know if the incident is hurting ticket sales.

    Through Tuesday afternoon, its shares had fallen 4.3 percent since Flight 3411, wiping out nearly $1 billion in market value, although several other airline stocks declined in the same period.

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    After the market closed Monday, United reported a $96 million first-quarter profit, down 69 percent from a year earlier largely because of higher costs for fuel, labor and maintenance. The revenue picture was looking better — evidence was growing that after two years of falling average fares, United will be able to push prices higher this year.

    On a conference call to discuss those results, Munoz started by apologizing again for the April 9 scene on a United Express plane at O'Hare Airport. 

    Munoz and other executives vowed to treat customers with dignity, and said that what happened to Dao will never happen again.

    Munoz's early statements on the incident were widely criticized. He initially supported employees and blamed Dao, calling him "disruptive and belligerent." On Tuesday, he was asked if the company ever considered firing anyone, including management.

    "I'm sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally," said Munoz. He noted that the board of United Continental Holdings Inc. has supported him.

    "It was a system failure across various areas," Munoz continued. "There was never a consideration for firing an employee."

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    Dao's lawyers have taken steps that foreshadow a lawsuit against the airline and the city of Chicago, which operates O'Hare Airport.

    United announced two rule changes last week, including saying that it will no longer call police to remove passengers from overbooked planes. It is not clear whether United oversold Flight 3411, but the flight became overbooked when four Republic Airline employees showed up after passengers had boarded and demanded seats so they could commute to their next assignment, a United Express flight the next morning.

    Some politicians and consumer advocates have called for a ban on overselling flights. Munoz declined to address that or other possible changes until the airline finishes a review by April 30.

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