Former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall On United Airline’s Dog Incident CNBC
United Airlines navigating through another PR disaster this morning following the death of a dog that was placed in an overhead bin during a flight from Houston to New York, joining us today on the phone is former chairman and CEO of American Airlines Bob Crandall whom we spoke to about a different issue a few days ago.
Bob, it’s good to have you back. Thank You Carl, how are you? I’m good here, we are again talking about United customer service and that sort of squishy question of whether or not something like this even played out on a national stage can have an impact on bookings, what do you think?
My guess is that you won’t have much impact on bookings, this is the whole notion of animals on airplanes, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the airlines, as you have seen in the newspapers here, recently in this particular case, we don’t know what the facts are, I don’t know what the flight attendant knew. I don’t know whether the woman the passenger in question and let everybody know that there was a dog in the bag.
But we don’t know, but we do what we do know, a lot of people are becoming awfully aggressive in terms of what they consider their quote right end quote, according to reports, Bob, the dog was barking initially when first place into the overhead bin, whether or not the passenger was forthright in terms of letting the people everybody down the plane know that there was a dog, there was noise coming out of the bin.
I mean I guess it is my immediate glad, there will be a whole series of questions, but the immediate question is fine, if you’re going to write, you have to put the dog up there for takeoff, because it won’t sit under the seat, once the airplane takes off, get the air, take the animal in the bag back out, whether that’s your feet, leave it there until the plant is ready to land, put the bag back up in the overhead that didn’t happen.
Do you know why that didn’t happen? I do not know, Bob, but you know most flight attendants are empathetic people, they’re not going to deliberately endanger the life of an animal or or make a pass unhappy and angry. I think we can understand that, this was allowed to happen which is strange.
Some of these d-o-t numbers though Bob United carried 75 carried 27% of commercially owned flown animals last year and three-quarters of the ones who died were on a United plane isn’t the data a little bit curious.
I thought that if I was running United, I would say wait a minute, let’s do a little study here and find out what’s going on, most of those I expect, I suspect we carried not in the passenger compartments, but in the cargo hold and if there is some unique thing that United is or isn’t doing in the cargo hold.
I expect they should go and have a look at that, Bob, you mentioned earlier that you didn’t think like that, a particular incident would cause any decline or drop-off in bookings at the same time, if you put this in the pastiche of what is going on with United starting with Dr. David Dow, this is a bigger problem, does this revive the anger that had been directed at United every year, every airline goes through these things, I must say I’ve been out of this, out of business a long time, but as simply as a reader of newspapers and the person who listens to the news United seems to have had a run of bad incidents here over the last year.
I would think and I expect that the men who run United, I feel exactly that way and my guess is that they’re tearing up the Pete patch trying to figure out what is going on and why it is going on, because let’s face it, every big airline has a constituency which is a total national constituency, they don’t want this kind of thing going on and so they’re going to try and find out why outside observers and absolutely no way to discern what the problem is.
Bob, one of the points made this morning on our air was that you may be upset at United, you may be afraid to fly on it with your dog, but the structure of routes now and the dominance of a small number of carriers on those routes make your choices limited even if you think the airline’s doing wrong, you have nowhere else to go.
Almost everybody’s got another place to go and they may not be able to go in quite as convenient away, but it would be a very rare City pair where you can only get from point A to point B on one airline now, it might only be one airline that flies a nonstop flight at the time.
But there are certainly other ways to get from A to B and lots of other ways to get to a B by alternative routing, keep our eye on, it transports, it has done a little bit better in the last few Chester Istanbul and we’ve talked about it.
I think we’ve talked about that before, one of the things that’s happened in the last few years is that, there has been a lot of consolidation and that has had the effect of diminishing, not eliminating, but diminishing the intense price competition that went on for many years in the airline industry and and which caused as a consequence many years when the airline’s couldn’t make any money, so you’ve got to find a happy medium, you’ve got to find an environment where the airlines can make a satisfactory profit and thus fund themselves.
At the same time, there is enough competition so that the public doesn’t feel disempowered, Bob, it’s always good to get your tape, we’ll talk to you soon, thank you my friend Bob, nice to be here, thanks for checking out CNBC on YouTube, be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date on all of the day’s biggest stories, you can also click on any of the videos around me to watch the latest from CNBC. Thanks for your time.