United dragging incident: Delta CEO defends overbookings

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls for airline overbooking to be suspended in the wake of a disturbing video of a United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said he doesn’t believe more legislation is needed and said Delta has done a better job of managing overbookings.

“I don’t think we need additional legislation to try to control how the airlines run their businesses in this space,” Bastian said during comments in a conference call Wednesday on the company’s quarterly financial results. “It’s not a question in my opinion as to whether you overbook. It’s how you manage overbooked situations.... The key is managing it before you get to the boarding process, and that’s what [Delta] has done a very effective and efficient job at.”

Bastian called overbooking “a valid business process. There’s operational considerations behind that.” He added that “there are things that happen that create overbooking situations beyond just pure oversales,” citing weather delays and weight-and-balance issues.

VIDEO: Passenger Removed From United Airlines Flight

He said Delta passengers are involuntarily bumped at lower rates than many other major airlines.

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Delta had 1,238 involuntarily bumped passengers in 2016, a rate of 0.1 per 10,000 passengers. That was the second-best rate among U.S. airlines.

“It’s very much about giving our front-line [workers] the tools and the flexibility to empower them at the first point of contact,” Bastian said.

Christie in a written statement called United’s conduct “abusive and outrageous,” and wrote a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to suspend federal regulation allowing airline overbooking and the related removal of passengers.

“Passengers who have paid the fare for their ticket and reserved a seat should not be subject to this arbitrary ‘bumping’ except in the most extreme of circumstances and certainly not to accommodate employees of United Airlines,” Christie wrote in the letter.

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