The viral video of a bloodied David Dao being forcibly removed from a United Express flight in Chicago this spring reshaped the way all major U.S. carriers handled
bumping passengers from flights. Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky doctor, already had
boarded the Louisville-bound aircraft when the carrier asked him to give up his
seat to make way for crew who needed to report for work in another market. Dao
refused and was injured when his face hit an armrest as security personnel pulled
him off the plane, all of which was caught on video by passengers. Much of the
initial incident’s severity was out of United’s control—the security personnel were not United employees,
and the flight itself was operated by Republic Airline—but the carrier’s immediate response was widely
criticized as not being contrite, and that further fueled the media frenzy.
United CEO Oscar Munoz later called the incident a turning point for the carrier, which enacted a litany
of changes in the subsequent months. Among them: increasing the denied-boarding compensation cap to
$10,000, no longer bumping passengers who already had boarded and reducing overbooking on flights that
historically had few volunteers willing to give up their seats. The response went far beyond United, though.
Delta increased its compensation maximums for bumped passengers, and American Airlines updated its
policies to make sure passengers who already boarded would not have to give up seats. Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, decided to end overbooking altogether, something that was already on its to-do list but
that moved to the front burner after the Dao incident.
Airline bumping policies remained in the news cycle for several weeks following the Dao video, including
several videos of incidents on other carriers, though the videos and their stories bore varying degrees of
credibility. Even before the incident, bumping had been on the decline, having reached its lowest rate in the
U.S. Department of Transportation’s recorded history in 2016. That decline accelerated after the incident, and
United reported that involuntary boarding incidents declined 92 percent year over year in the third quarter,
including 28 days in which no passengers were involuntarily denied boarding. That had not happened on any
single day prior to that quarter. Overall, major U.S. carriers decreased bumping by 78 percent year over year
in the third quarter to 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, setting a new low, according to DOT records.
Dao, who did get an undisclosed settlement from United, undoubtedly would rather simply have flown
to Louisville than appear on this list. Willing or not, he shaped airline perception and policy for this year and
years to come.
—Michael B. Baker
An Unwilling Catalyst
UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER
“People who have been in the meetings industry for 20 years say there’s been
more change in the last three years than in the 17 years before that, ” Etouches
president & CEO Oni Chukwu said. Disparate technologies have come togeth-
er quickly in the past year. DoubleDutch, for example, has pivoted from an
isolated mobile app to pursue end-to-end meetings management; Event Tech
Tribe entered the scene as an integrated “collective.” For his part, Chukwu saw
the writing on the wall when he joined Etouches four years ago: “There was a clear need for a thoughtful
platform. ... It was a clear, mapped-out strategy.”
In the past 18 months, Etouches debuted an Event ROI analytics platform that not only collects and
crunches data but also helps define pertinent metrics. The company acquired and integrated sourcing tech-
nology Zentila and on-site data-capture technology Loopd. Chukwu also led Etouches through an acquisition
by private equity firm HGGC. The move brought more cash and the ability to build and develop even faster
as the meetings industry matures. “We are at the intersection between marketing automation, customer
relationship management and even enterprise resource planning technology, ” Chukwu said.
Maturing data practices have brought privacy responsibilities for meetings tech providers. Etouches
was the first U.S.-based meetings tech provider to be certified for Privacy Shield. It’s also ready to keep
compliant under the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, which will go into effect in
May. “We have been at the forefront in making sure event professionals understand their exposure to
GDPR. We are the only ones who have … built regional data centers in Europe and Asia. It becomes
almost impossible to do business with a European company if you don’t have that, ” Chukwu said. The
industry can expect other meetings companies to follow in these footsteps, as quickly as they can.
The pursuit of small meetings management
historically has cooled in the face of technical
constraints. Access to live meetings inventory
is a challenge, as has connecting, or separating, travel costs, venue, equipment and food
and beverage costs. Formal meetings management technologies like Cvent and Etouches seem like overkill for small, ad hoc meetings. Yet allowing multitudes of meetings to go
unmanaged is not the answer. Small meetings
need a lighter-weight, more intuitive solution
with enough complexity under the hood to be
effective. Like Groupize.
“We’ve built a lot of technology, ” said CEO
needed, Groupize reverts to a simplified email-based sourcing process that logs all communications in the tool.
There are other small meetings tools in the
market, but de Gaspe Beaubien has broken
from the pack not only with good technology
but also via a tight integration with Concur Travel
that pulls profile information into Groupize and
sends information back to Concur for reporting.
It also facilitates an easy pass from registration
to travel booking and tracks the details. “We
built Groupize to integrate with Concur, ” he told
BTN in February, because he knew the Concur
Meetings technology would be pulled out of the
market in January 2018. That gave Groupize a
pipeline to direct corporate customers who need
a logical solution. De Gaspe Beaubien also has
forged relationships with more than two dozen
travel management companies, and Groupize
serves as a white-label solution for several that
resell the product under their own names.