United Air: Public relations nightmare

Check out the last minute of this Jimmy Kimmel video. It is a spoofed TV commercial for United Airlines. Based on recent events, it seems pretty authentic. Kimmel’s monologue is pretty funny too!

I have heard from a few people who defend United—offering an explanation of overbooking policy—or the rude defiance of the Asian doctor that was dragged out of the plane bloodied and on his back (and apparently, with a broken jaw). But, no matter how you spin this, United was incredibly foolish to issue a patently offensive statement about how clients were unfortunately “reaccommodated”.
Yeah! I’ll agree that it was certainly unfortunate. But, I am not too sure about this being an example of airline accommodation. Check out the Twitter reaction.
Typically, these things blow over and the public searches for the next low fare—even if it is lower by only one dollar. But this time, I think that United may feel the pain. Their methods and the ensuing arrogance of CEO, Oscar Munoz, are tantamount to flipping a middle finger at paying passengers.
Good luck with that, United Airlines!

2 thoughts on “United Air: Public relations nightmare

  1. Clearly, United Airlines made a major mistake, needs to take responsibility for it, and that may involve some type of apology and/or restitution to the passenger. United also needs to make a clear statement to its current and future flying customers.

    I’ve been on at least a half-dozen flights in which individuals were already seated, and the airline had overbooked the flight and needed to ask for volunteers to exit the plane and take a later (or next-day) flight. In each of those cases, a gate agent clearly explained the problem, and then began offering incentives. At a minimum, the incentives typically include a free next-flight to the same destination. But on several occasions, the agent walked up and down the aisle and started waiving increments of $100. On one late flight, the agent needed to get up to $1,200 + free flight, before enough people were willing (and seemingly happy) to postpone their travel. Usually, no more than a few hundred dollars are needed to make some volunteers happy.

    I think the primary mistake made by United was to stop raising the incentive level at some point, and resort to coercive bumping, which is legal and their right to do, but which they surely must have understood would cause vastly more cost to the company than just continuing to raise the compensation level. I think United should also have known that when you ask a local police force to remove a passenger, it is highly possible that they will do so in a physically forceful manner. If a passenger is endangering other passengers, this may be necessary; but I did not receive the impression from local news stories that was the case here.

    • United CEO, Oscar Munoz, tweeted that that the airline had to unfortunately “reaccommodate” a few passengers. That’s corporate doublespeak for “We dragged that Chinaman out on his ass—bloodied and with a broken jaw.”

      I don’t see any excuse for ejecting passengers who already have a boarding pass, a seat assignment, and are sitting in the assigned seat. There should never be two boarding passes issued to the same seat.

      United claims that it needed four seats for flight attendants, so that it could avert a chain of flight delays beginning at the next airport. That’s a pretty weak excuse for poor planning and horrid logistics. Even if you accept this reason, the random and violent ejection of a doctor (or any paying passenger) is colossally stupid!

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