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“Fly The Friendly Skies”: What We Can Learn From United’s Rough 2017

We’d be surprised if you haven’t heard about the trouble United Airlines is in by now. If you’re unfamiliar with their situation, here’s a breakdown: A man was forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight, traveling from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, KY. 

Four passengers were asked to give up their seats in order to make room for United Airlines employees who needed to be in Louisville the following day. When no passengers volunteered, they were selected at random and asked to remove themselves from the flight, which they had already boarded and taken their seats on. Two of the individuals chosen complied, while one man was said to be contacting his lawyer about the situation. Members of the Chicago Aviation Police were called in and then the man was aggressively pulled from his seat. In videos recorded by fellow passengers, you can hear him screaming. He was slammed into an armrest and dragged down the airplane’s aisle, his wife following after. Other passengers of the flight were visibly upset and shaken by the situation. 

Let us remind you, this is coming just weeks after another United Airlines fiasco, now referred to as “Leggings-Gate,” which occurred on March 26th, 2017.  

What We Can Learn: 

Do More to Avoid the Situation

What United Airlines offered for compensation — $800 dollars, a hotel room, and a flight the following afternoon — clearly wasn’t enough for passengers to volunteer. Before forcing people off the plane, up your incentive. You’re a big corporation and that can’t be too much trouble. 

Alternatively, was there really no other way to get your employees to Louisville? 

Realize That There’s Always Someone Watching

The majority of people in America today have a video camera turned on and in their back pockets. They know how to leverage social media platforms in order to spread messages in no time at all. They understand the power of virality today. So, if you’re a business, especially one that’s recognized across the globe, remember that you’re always being watched. 

Apologize Right… The First Time

The CEO of United Airlines, who was (plot twist) just named “Communicator of the Year” last month by PRWeek, has come across as wishy-washy when it comes to his multiple statements about what occurred on flight 3411. 

He initially commended United Airlines staff before issuing an apology to the passengers of the flight. Then, a brief statement was released on Twitter. People had a field day with his use of the term “re-accommodate” since it seemed to make light of the situation and came across as insensitive. What do you think about it? 


The first apology released from United Airlines.

This was followed by a longer apology and other statements that have been made since — in which his tone has seemed to change in order to better align with the consensus of the general public.  


The second apology released from United Airlines.

What Has Happened Since:

United’s Stocks Have Plummeted and Recovered

Since the video, United Airlines’ stock has dipped and most recently it’s been reportedly close to where it was before the incident. Although the impact was short-lived, it wouldn’t be surprising if investors were more wary of airline investments going forward. 

Competitors Pack a Punch 

Okay, so this isn’t technically real… but we’ll just leave it here. 

Social Media Burns 

#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos was trending on twitter with quips such as “not enough seating, prepare for a beating” and “United Airlines. Putting the hospital in hospitality.” 

In addition to this, a number of influencers have vowed to never fly with United Airlines again. 

No matter what you’ve read about airline compliance, what freedom’s you’ve given up once you board an airplane, or what you’ve heard has been dug up about the passenger’s PAST (that’s just dirty journalism) — I think we can all come to an agreement that the situation was handled very poorly and that United Airlines has a lot of work to do if they want to successfully recover and move forward in 2017.



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