United misses Senate deadline for answers about dragging incident

United misses Senate deadline for answers about dragging incident
© Greg Nash

United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation both missed a Thursday deadline to answer questions from a Senate panel about the forcible removal of a passenger last week.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said Friday that neither organization provided information to the panel about why a passenger was violently dragged off a United flight to make room for airline personnel.

“We’re disappointed that neither United Airlines nor the Chicago Department of Aviation has yet provided substantive answers to the straightforward questions we asked,” the panel said in a statement. “Getting answers for the public about what happened and what can be done to prevent such an incident from happening again is a priority for the members of our committee. We find any further delay in getting necessary answers unacceptable.”

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United informed the panel Thursday it would not meet the deadline. The company has promised to provide a full response to the committee no later than April 27, while the Chicago Department of Aviation promised a response by April 26.

"United Airlines continues to focus on making this right, as no one should ever be mistreated this way. As part of our commitment to our customers, we are in the process of conducting a thorough review of our policies," a United spokesperson said. "We understand the Committee's strong interest in this incident and its oversight role. In our preliminary response to the Committee, we outlined efforts underway to better serve our customers and requested a brief extension in responding to the Committee’s detailed questions in order to ensure accuracy and thoroughness."

Across the Capitol, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee may get answers when it holds a hearing on airline consumer issues, where a United representative will reportedly testify.

The Senate panel wants to know when United first became aware of a crew scheduling mistake that led to passengers being forced to give up their seats after boarding. 

They panel's members also are also seeking information how the airline selects passengers for involuntary bumping, what compensation was first offered to volunteers, what assurances were provided to customers who were forced to give up their seats, and if United considers bumping a passenger to accommodate employees the same as when a flight is oversold.

From the Chicago Department of Aviation, the lawmakers are seeking information about their security protocols for responding to these situations and if the passenger resisted removal passively or did something threatening to law enforcement.

The security officers involved in the violence have been placed on leave, pending an investigation.