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There's not much more the United CEO can do, says former American Airlines chief

CNBC logo CNBC 13/04/2017 Matthew J. Belvedere

© Provided by CNBC United  (UAL) CEO Oscar Munoz can't really take that many more steps to deal with the uproar over Sunday's forcible removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight, former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall told CNBC on Thursday.

"I don't think at this stage of the game that there's much more that he can do," Crandall said on "Squawk Box."

Crandall acknowledged that Munoz got out of the gate slowly in response to the backlash over the removal of Dr. David Dao by airport police that was fueled by videos of the confrontation going viral on social media. "Of course in the beginning, he didn't immediately say 'mea culpa, mea culpa.'"

On Monday, Munoz was roundly criticized for saying in a statement that he was sorry that the airline had to "re-accommodate these customers."

Dao was among four passengers chosen at random to be bumped from Sunday's flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, after nobody was enticed enough by the airline's offers to voluntarily gave up their seats.

Munoz on Tuesday issued another apology, expressing outrage and regret, and promising a "thorough review."

In an interview Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," he said: "This will never happen again," vowing he would not resign over the fiasco. "I was hired to make United better, and that's what we'll do."

As part of United's crisis management, the airline said late Wednesday that all passengers on Sunday's United Express Flight 3411 are getting reimbursement equal to the cost of their tickets, which can be taken in cash, travel credits, or miles.

"At this point, what we need to do is we need to be sure that we don't go in and make a bunch of rules which will have an adverse effect on flyers rather than on airlines," Crandall said.

"The overbooking process makes it possible to use seats on airplanes much more effectively," he said, arguing it helps the customer by allowing them to book on a sold-out flight that's unlikely to remain that way and the airline by helping ensure that all flights are at capacity.

Crandall did, however, acknowledge it's "probably time" to revisit the overbooking process because the rules were made a long time ago when there were more no-shows.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Dao called a news conference for Thursday morning after filing an emergency "bill of discovery," seeking the airline's documentation of Sunday's confrontation, including all surveillance videos, cockpit voice recordings, passenger and crew lists, and incident reports.

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