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Here Are the Changes United Will Make to Be More 'Customer Focused'

In response to the ‘passenger-drag’ incident that created global outcry, United promises 10 changes and a renewed focus on its customers.
Image: Passengers arrive for flights at the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport
Passengers arrive for flights at the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on April 12, 2017.Scott Olson / Getty Images

In addition to apologizing to David Dao, the passenger seen in a viral video being dragged off of United Flight 3411 on April 9 after refusing to give up his seat for a crew member, United Airlines promised to review the incident and the airline’s policies and report back by April 30.

That report is now out and in it, United’s chief executive officer, Oscar Munoz, said the review shows that “many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: Our policies got in the way of our values, and procedures interfered in doing what’s right.”

The report outlines 10 policy changes and commitments the airline will make going forward, as “concrete, meaningful action to make things right and ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” said Munoz.

In its review of the April 9 incident, United’s report outlines four failures: calling on law enforcement to resolve a policy issue when no safety or security issue existed; rebooking crewmembers onto an already full flight at the last minute; not authorizing staff to offer high enough compensation to get volunteers to give up their seats; and not training staff to be able to deal with Flight 3411-type situations.

Related: United CEO Oscar Munoz Speaks Exclusively to Lester Holt

With the 10 policy changes announced and listed below, United said it seeks to be more customer-focused, reduce incidents of involuntary boarding to “as close to zero as possible,” and avoid having the airline’s policies put customers, employees, and partners into “impossible situations."

1. United will only call law enforcement if there is a safety or security issue, but not to enforce airline policies. This policy went into effect April 12.

2. Customers who are already seated on the plane won’t be asked to give up their seats involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk. This policy went into effect on April 27.

3. The amount of compensation incentives for passengers who voluntarily give up their seats and take a later flight has a new upper limit: $10,000. This will go into effect April 28.

4. By June, United will have a ‘customer solutions’ team in place to help gate agents get flyers and crews to their final destinations.

5. Crew members traveling for work on United flights must now be booked at least 60 minutes prior to departure. That rule went into effect April 14.

6. In August, United will add annual training for its frontline employees to help them deal with “the most difficult of situations.”

7. At the airport and on United’s app, there will be an automated check-in system that includes seeking volunteers willing to give up their seats on overbooked flights. United says this system will roll out later this year.

8. The overbooking policy is being adjusted to reduce overbookings on end-of-day flights, flights on smaller aircraft and others where the volunteer rates have been low.

9. The airline is rolling out an “in the moment” app for employees that will let them easily - and proactively - compensate passengers with mileage credits or other perks when something goes wrong. Flight attendants will have the app by July, said United, and gate agents should have it by the end of the year.

10. United will adopt a “no questions asked” policy to reduce the red tape involved in issuing compensation for permanently lost luggage. Starting in June, the carrier will pay passengers $1,500 for a lost bag and its contents.

Shortly after United's announcement, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines released its own plans to end the practice of overbooking flights.

"I've made the decision and the company's made the decision that we'll cease to overbook going forward," Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC.

A spokeswoman for Southwest added that better forecasting tools and a new reservations system would essentially eliminate the airline's need to overbook flights.