Letter: Make A Deal

Letter to the Editor

Dear Mr. President,

Last week’s shocking customer service implosions at United Airlines were decades in the making and present a unique opportunity for your administration to bridge the political aisle and improve commercial airline travel, put consumers first and rebuke airline special interests. Commercial aviation public policy deliberation has historically been a bipartisan effort. 

There are several Democratic members of congress, such as Senator Richard Blumenthal, who just announced a Passenger Bill of Rights, whose efforts to strengthen consumer protections in recent years have been blocked by a deep-pocketed army of airline lobbyists. 

United Airlines has spent $41 million in recent years to block consumer protections at the U.S. Department of Transportation, in federal court and in congress. The Flight 3411 nightmare lays bare the bankrupt customer culture at the U.S. network carriers. 

Mr. President, can you imagine a guest having checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, and while unpacking, a hotel security guard knocks on the door and informs your guest that a more important customer just arrived, and therefore, the guestroom needs to be vacated? Upon protesting, your guest is violently dragged like an animal out of his guestroom into the service elevator, with a bleeding broken nose, a concussion and knocked out teeth. 

Of course, this would never happen at your hotel or any guest-driven business. Some of the world’s most customer-centric airlines include Alaska Airlines, Azul, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, JetBlue, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Those airlines’ deep-rooted cultures would never have allowed a guest to be treated like 69-year-old Dr. David Dao was. At issue is an ingrained cultural indifference toward the customer that has worsened as the industry consolidated in recent years. The major U.S. network airlines neither can nor want to fix the problem.   

Importantly, Mr. President, Mr. Blumenthal’s bill would restore airline passengers’ right to sue airlines for unfair or deceptive practices. 

I urge your administration to work with Mr. Blumenthal and other congresspeople to reverse the decline in service and respect for airline customers.

Thank you for all you do in support of great American jobs, robust competition and the consumer.

Kevin Mitchell