United Airlines reported impressive operational improvement for May 2017, all thanks to the carrier's recent policy changes designed specifically to improve customer experience. The airline's operational report for May showed an incredible 79 percent drop (year-over-year) in the number of involuntary denied boardings. This averages to about two denials a day, much lower than the 2016 average of ten per day. There was a total of 3,765 denials in all of 2016. If May's numbers are any indication of a broader trend, then 2017's total should be significantly lower.
It is fairly obvious that the so-called 'customer-focused policy changes', as United president Scott Kirby termed them, along with United's eagerness to report publicly on their apparent success, are an attempt by the carrier to improve customer relations after the now-infamous April 2017 incident surrounding an involuntary denied boarding.
The scandal, occurring April 9th of this year, happened on an allegedly overbooked flight out of Chicago O'Hare International Airport. A video leaked to the Internet and subsequently viewed by millions showed a United passenger being forcefully dragged from Flight 3411 by local law enforcement. Passengers, who suffered a 2-hour delay as a result of the confrontation, were reportedly disturbed by the incident.
While United's motives for the policy changes are transparent, a reduction in involuntary denied boardings is a good thing. Such denials are never a pleasant situation, and it's reassuring that United has taken successful steps to reduce them, even if its reasoning is ultimately self-serving.
As part of the carrier's policy change, United also increased compensation for involuntary denials and established a new rule to never remove boarded passengers in cases of overbooking. Hopefully, United will continue to observe and possibly enhance these clearly effective policy changes.