Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson says she recently flew the Guam to Honolulu route on United Airlines and experienced first-hand some of the complaints customers have made over the years.
Guam – Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson says it was a recent trip on the United Airlines Guam to Honolulu route that prompted her and CNMI AG Ed Manibusan to voice their concerns to United heads in Chicago about their decline in services.
The letter they sent yesterday has now gotten the attention of other Attorneys General across the US.
“I feel it’s unfair, personally. It’s unfair,” stated Barrett-Anderson.
The two attorneys general, in July this year, took a trip to participate in the Conference of Western Attorneys General. It was because of that flight that the two came up with the idea to reach out to agency heads at United Airlines. In addition, Barrett-Anderson says it was also in response to a letter sent by United CEO Oscar Munoz to all mileage account holders after he took over as CEO earlier in the year.
“I said, ‘Ed, why don’t we dialogue with United Airlines?’ And he thought that was a great idea,” explains AG Barrett-Anderson.
The letter sent yesterday, signed by Barrett-Anderson and Manibusan and addressed to United’s Acting CEO Brett Hart, identifies just some of those subpar services: no free in-flight meals, fees for extra baggage, older fleet models, and no in-flight entertainment. In the past, United has stated that the reason the Guam to Honolulu flight lacks some of the services international flights see is because they consider the route to be a domestic route. United, in recent years, eliminated the free in-flight meal for all domestic flights in the US.
“I and Ed Manibusan look at this international leg, seven to eight hour international leg, which, if you look at your boarding pass, says international–INT–on all your boarding passes and yet the services that were being provided is identical to domestic flights,” Barrett-Anderson says. “Yet if you look at United’s international flights elsewhere in the world–free in-flight meals, free in flight entertainment, the extra bag free,” notes Barrett-Anderson.
So why are the attorneys general getting involved? And what action, if any, can their offices take on the matter?
“Between our two jurisdictions, we are looking at what protections our statutes give us. But we don’t want to start off on a foot of suggesting where we wanna go is in court, where we wanna go is in litigation because that’s not the tone of Mr. Munoz’s letter,” explains Barrett-Anderson. “United could literally just be silent about the whole thing but what does that say to the customers of Guam? I think that type of silence is not, in my mind, consistent with what Mr. Oscar Munoz did.”
Regardless of whether or not the Guam AG’s Office received formal complaints regarding United’s inadequate services, Barrett-Anderson says they don’t need formal complaints to voice their opinion.
“I can’t promise and nor can Ed promise the consumers of either jurisdiction that it’s gonna change overnight or that we can make a change. But what we can do for the consumers of Guam is we can be their voice,” she says.
Barrett-Anderson says other attorneys general across the US are also raising similar concerns regarding the airline industry in America as a whole and, much like the deregulation in the banking industry that led to the economic crash in 2007, they are worried that deregulation in the airline industry could be headed in the same direction.
“The national conference of attorneys general, they were interested in what Ed and I were doing and they wanted us to do a presentation at the February conference in Washington D.C. So this is not just an issue unique to the Guam-Honolulu route,” she explains.
“So what I encouraged United Airlines to do is, let’s not have a too big to fail again situation with the airline industry because of deregulation. We should learn from the banking faux pas and not ever let that happen in other deregulation industries such as the airline industry,” she points out.
Because what we’re asking for is not unreasonable,” she adds.
United Corporate Communications responded to our request for comment in an email statement that said, “United Airlines confirms that it has received the letter. We are currently in the process of reviewing it.”