I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ill-fated (and immoral) decision of several United Airlines employees to forcibly remove passenger Dr. David Dao from an “overbooked” flight on Sunday.
As it turns out, the flight was not actually overbooked, but rather – the airline decided to remove four passengers at the last minute (after boarding) to make room for an off-duty flight crew.
There have already been dozens of articles written about the incident, and it will be days, perhaps even months, before the full extent of the reputational damage to United is fully known.
But in case you thought that PR crises don’t have tangible results, United’s stock lost 1.13% yesterday, more than $250 million.
In one day.
Suffice it to say:
- Leadership and corporate culture begins at the top. United Airlines as a corporate entity is responsible for the actions of its employees – and for fostering an environment in which assault on a customer was even considered – let alone actually perpetrated.
- The United CEO’s initial statement on the matter was laughably tone-deaf.
- God bless cell phones with video cameras.
Back in 1990, the sci-fi thriller Predator 2’s best scene featured a would-be mugger who pulls a gun on an old lady on a NYC train.
In a clever commentary on American society in the post-Bernie Goetz world, 4-5 other subway passengers immediately pull out their own guns on the mugger.
That’s the scene that struck me as I realize we now live in a society where virtually everyone now carries not just a camera – but a video camera – in their pocket.
In an era of suspicion over “fake news,” crowd-sourced real-time video is still a relatively new tool for holding authorities to account.
And its adding transparency – and yes – viral outrage, to incidents that, even a decade ago, might have gone un-reported.
I hope to have time shortly to better analyze the United Airlines incident from a crisis communications and brand perspective.
In the meantime, here are the best tweets about it, which were trending Tuesday morning under the hashtag #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos:
— 💫DitzyDoo💫 (@DitzyDooo) April 11, 2017
Board as a doctor,
Leave as a patient. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Jenn 🐳🐳 (@fanqin0619) April 11, 2017
We Treat You Like a King…Rodney King. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Travis Keys (@thewritetbkeys) April 11, 2017
Pepsi: oh no, this is a PR nightmare.
United Airlines: Hold my beer. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Catalina Gamble (@CatGambl3) April 11, 2017
— The Amish Texter ™ (@the_amish_txtr) April 11, 2017
— AngryTraveller (@angrytrav) April 11, 2017
— 1st Witness (@1st_Witness) April 11, 2017
Our prices are unbeatable. But not our customers…#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Jamie Serafi (@JamieSerafi) April 12, 2017