United changes policy, crew can't displace seated passengers

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United Airlines is changing a company policy and will no longer allow crew members to displace customers already onboard an airplane. (WLS)

It's been a week since Dr. David Dao was dragged off a United plane. Yet, the debacle doesn't seem to be coming in for a landing for United Airlines.

Communications strategist Thom Serafin predicts it may take a few years for the company to repair its image.

"If you are not there immediately, you are running behind. You no longer have a chance for a second impression," he said.

Because technology has made every crisis play out in real time, public relations experts say United's CEO made a big mistake last week by probably listening to its legal department and issuing its first statement using the sentence, "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these passengers."

"United has to get out there quickly and early and speak to the customer and can't use language the defense department comes up with," Serafin said. "When you are saying you are re-accommodating a passenger, that doesn't make any sense."

Serafin says for United to recover, every layer of the company must take responsibility and understand it's all about the customer. He says the put-people-first concept is key for the airline move on.

"You need to teach, organize and caress, care for the client, customers. And everybody in the organization - whether handling baggage or taking tickets - has to feel the same way," Serafin said.

United is changing a company policy and will no longer allow crew members to displace customers already onboard an airplane.

The change comes after a passenger, Dr. David Dao, was dragged from a fully-booked United Express flight in Chicago because he refused to give up his seat to make room for crew members. Cellphone video of the incident sparked widespread outrage and created a public-relations nightmare for United.
Under the change outlined in an internal April 14 email, a crew member must make must-ride bookings at least 60 minutes prior to departure. Crews could previously be booked until the time of departure.

United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email Sunday that the change is an initial step in a review of policies and it's meant to ensure that situations like Dao's never happen again.

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A Facebook video appears to show a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight Sunday evening at O'Hare International Airport.

READ MORE: Who is Dr. David Dao?

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United CEO Oscar Munoz sat down exclusively with ABC News after controversy over the removal of a passenger from an overcrowded plane.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
newsUnited Airlinespassengercontroversial videou.s. & worldconsumerKentuckyO'Hare
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