United Airlines will offer alternative flights to any passengers uncomfortable with flying on the Boeing 737 Max once the narrowbody returns to the skies.
“We are going to make it very transparent to our customers [that their trip is on a Max],” chief executive Oscar Munoz said at an Aviation Club luncheon in London today. “If they are not happy, we will offer to rebook them, even if they take that decision at the gate.”
He adds: “We don’t assume everybody will jump back on the aircraft.”
United has been unable to operate its 14 Max 9 aircraft since the US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators grounded the type in March following two fatal crashes.
Munoz, who adds that the airline is “not in any particular hurry” to bring the re-engined narrowbody back to service, reiterated his pledge to fly on the first United Max service following re-certification, acknowledging that the grounding has damaged customer perceptions of the Max brand.
United was due to increase its fleet of Max aircraft to 30 by the end of this year, with another 28 due in 2020.
In his speech to the Aviation Club, Munoz outlined some of the factors behind what he called the airline’s “turnaround” since he joined in 2015.
These included “regaining the trust of our employees”, partly by settling long-running labour disputes; adding routes, including 93 cities last year alone; improving customer care by giving cabin crew devices to instantly record any passenger grievance; and increasing capacity to “mid-continent” secondary airports using Bombardier CRJ550s, a 50-seat derivative of the CRJ700 with a business class cabin, operated by its United Express partner GoJet Airlines.
Munoz admitted that there had been “missteps on the journey”, including a controversial incident in 2017 when a ticketed passenger was dragged violently from an aircraft following a dispute over seating, leading to calls for the chief executive to resign.