United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz says he didn't follow his natural instincts amid the furore over the dragging of a passenger from one of the airline's planes.
Munoz was heavily criticised for his belated apology to David Dao, who was dragged bleeding from a domestic flight in Chicago.
Speaking at the International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Mexico, Munoz said he was getting advice on how to handle the crisis from too many people following the ''horrible event".
''In a crisis of that magnitude evolving so quickly you tend to talk to too many people. I should have been more apologetic at first; it happened because it moved so quickly.''
Cellphone footage of the bleeding doctor went viral online and sparked international outrage. United has since settled with him, including a confidential payout.
The incident in April also led to major changes in United's customer service practices and Munoz repeatedly apologising at congressional hearings.
Munoz said his 95-year-old airline had been too rigid.
"In our business, particularly those who have been around for a long period of time ... are built on a foundation and a structural focus on things like safety where there is no there is no leeway, '' he said.
'We carry that same mantra into customer service areas and we've become too rigid. We have to become more flexible and more communicative about things."
"As we look forward as United focus on reliability and safe and efficient travel but we have to be more flexible, somehow the newer airlines are able to that."
He said he was also criticised for supporting 87,000 members of staff.
During the panel discussion on airline recovery stories he said: ''Ladies and gentlemen - I will go to my grave defending them. That was the right thing to do for our company."
The incident turned the spotlight on the practice of overbooking by airlines. They bank on some passengers not turning up on certain flights and thereby ensure they take off full.
A case of Air New Zealand passengers being bumped from a flight to Rarotonga and having their holiday delayed for a day has emerged this week.
Air New Zealand's chief executive Christopher Luxon told the Herald in Cancun the case was ''exceptional"and it had to make it right by customers.
He said 0.05 flights were overbooked at his airline and certain routes and flights at certain times were never overbooked.
''We don't have an overbooking issue compared to what happens in the broader industry."
Overbooking was a ''normal thing" in aviation.
'You avoid an aircraft going out with empty seats is a bad thing."
The panel discussion included Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew who said airlines have got 15 minutes or less to say sorry for incidents.
Last Wednesday a disturbed passenger tried to break into the cockpit on a flight from Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur and the plane turned back after passengers and crew tackled the man.
A pilot called from the cockpit saying he thought there may an incident and the airline responded immediately.
''As soon as we got the call we worked out the press statement which included saying sorry, that got copied on social media and that dictated the story and where the story went," he said.
''I think you have less than 15 minutes to say you're sorry because people were live streaming on Facebook what was happening on Facebook because it was less than 4000 feet - that's the pressure you're under now, it's horrendous."
The head of the parent company of British Airways, which suffered an IT meltdown on May 27, said earlier at the meeting said it had not got its communication following the problem which stranded 75,000 passengers.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said however, its efforts to communicate on social media weren't given due credit.
''It would appear that the traditional media do not like social media because the carrier was given no credit for its use of platforms such as Twitter and Youtube to communicate with passengers.''
The outage has been blamed on power being reconnected to its data centre by a contractor in ''an uncontrolled fashion'' causing damage to servers, power units and distribution panels.
• Grant Bradley travelled to Cancun with the assistance of IATA and Air New Zealand.