United airlines to link exec pay to customer satisfaction

The airline is taking action after a passenger was violently dragged from one of its planes, generating a public relations catastrophe.

United Airlines plans to tie executive pay more closely to customer satisfaction after a passenger was violently dragged from one of its planes, leading to a public relations disaster.

The US-based company also revealed that its chief executive, Oscar Munoz, will not now become chairman of the board in 2018 as expected. A filing with financial watchdog, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), indicated that Munoz initiated the move himself, and that future appointments to the chair position would be made at the board’s discretion.

United also said in the filing: “United’s management and the board take recent events extremely seriously and are in the process of developing targeted compensation program design adjustments to ensure that employees’ incentive opportunities for 2017 are directly and meaningfully tied to progress in improving the customer experience.”

The airline has been under much scrutiny since a video of the incident, which saw 69-year-old Vietnamese-American Dr David Dao dragged from a flight on 9 April by law enforcement officials, went viral on social media and was viewed around the world.

Dao lost two teeth and suffered a broken nose after United said that it wanted four passengers to give up their seats for staff members on a flight departing from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. He had refused to leave, saying he needed to go home to see his patients, but was then physically hauled down the aisle of the aircraft.

United came under heavy criticism for the incident, not least because Munoz appeared to blame it on Dao in his first public statement, describing him as “disruptive and belligerent”. A few days later, he claimed to feel “shame and embarrassment” and vowed it would never happen again. The SEC filing showed that he was paid US$18.72 million in 2016.