The CEO of United demonstrated how to turn a PR crisis into a disaster

Synopsis of the Flight 3411

  • On April 9, the whole world watched in horror as a 69-year-old man was dragged off a United flight in Chicago. The CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, said that he was sorry “for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
  • The United flight from Chicago to Louisville was “overbooked” when the airline tried to get four of its crew members on the flight. When United couldn’t find any volunteers to exit the flight with a $400 incentive, they chose to remove four people who had already been seated by drawing lots. One Asian man refused to leave. Then the airline brought in security to beat him and drag him down the aisle of the plane.
  • Many people on the flight shot videos of the incident, including when the man re-boarded the plane with his bleeding face. He said, “just killed me.”
The Asian passenger
The Asian passenger

CEO’s Bad Apology

Apology from the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz
Apology from the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz

The famous comedian Jimmy Kimmel highlighted the word “re-accommodate” in the statement. He joked, “Just like we re-accommodated El Chapo out of Mexico.” He also said the statement is “sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate-BS speak.” Then he presented a mock safety video that he suggested United Airlines use.

“We’re United Airlines. You do what we say when we say, and there won’t be a problem, capiche?,” a smiling flight attendant says. “If we say you fly, you fly. If not, tough s—. Give us a problem and we’ll drag your a– off the plane, and if you resist, we’ll beat you so badly you’ll be using your own face as a flotation device.”

Leaked Email

What was even worse was that the CEO’s email to his subordinates was subsequently leaked to the press.

“Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.

While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

Oscar”

Reflection

For me, I cannot believe this is real. The CEO pointed out “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.” He also claimed that Asian passenger is “disruptive and belligerent.”

I think there is no argument can be used to justify the action of violently removing a paying customer from a flight. In order to resolve this issue, the CEO should quickly issue a sincere apology after the incident. In fact, the CEO Oscar Munoz screwed that up completely. Besides, that leaked email is even worse. I believe the United Airlines’s reputation was destroyed. It might take a long time to gain its customers back. How can the CEO commend those violent employees?! He think they followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this?! In the end, the United paid the price, at the expense of the share price, corporate reputation, and its passengers’ safety.

In fact. the United didn’t “have to” eject its paying customer from the plane so violently. They could have offered passengers more compensation to voluntarily take a later flight. If they were going to remove someone involuntarily, they didn’t have to knock him onto the floor and drag him down the aisle.

I think this is really sad in America, especially in such a democratic country.

 

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