Three months after United forcibly removed a paying customer from a flight, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz told investors that fewer passengers are being denied boarding on overbooked flights.
“Since we put different things into inception a couple months ago, we’ve achieved almost 85% reduction in involuntary denied boarding due to reforms in the past few months,” Munoz said.
United’s involuntary denied boardings were down 79% in May and 88% in June versus the previous year, according to the airline.
The “different things” Munoz said United put into inception were giving flight attendants and gate agents the power to hand out money or vouchers to convince people to take a different flight. This is something Munoz told Congress when lawmakers called the CEO in to answer for the April public relations scandal.
“These changes amount to a lot more than just a policy shift—allow me to use the term ‘paradigm shift’ [in] our culture and mindset of our employees and our management,” said Munoz. “It’s about providing our people with tools that will be imperative to solve problems in the moment for our customers.”
United still bumps, but not very much
How much is an 85% drop exactly? In 2016, from April to June, 971 passengers out of 221 million were involuntarily bumped, a rate of 0.40 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers, according to DOT data. This means around 146 people are currently being bumped against their will every quarter. That’s around 50 per month or about 0.05 passengers per 10,000.
Across major carriers, the average number of involuntary bumpings was 0.75 per 10,000 in 2015.
On its earnings call Wednesday, United executives were asked about a pilot program where people can take earlier flights if the airline expects an overbooking situation. This program should roll out in a few weeks, but United president Scott Kirby noted the program will be “really small scale,” with only 50 people likely to volunteer to use it. He did not note whether that was on a per-day basis.