United May Be Down, But Not Out

The people have spoken.

If you’d like to hear what they’re saying, I recommend scrolling through the 100K+ comments on the United Airlines’ Facebook Page right now.

For a long time, United’s been called — in jest — a *credit card company* that also operates an *airline.* But now no one’s laughing.

PR gurus have been holding one giant postmortem on how United completely screwed itself and its (not so) shiny brand by dragging a passenger off a plane it had purposely overbooked.

After first standing by its crew and official procedures dealing with a “belligerent” passenger, by yesterday afternoon, United’s CEO issued a written statement calling the weekend incident “truly horrific” and taking “full responsibility.”

There are two sides to this story, and maybe one day we’ll know the whole truth.

For now, the story is a reminder that:

1. There’s always a camera.

2. Optics are everything. (Actions speak louder than words.)

3. Uploading a scene like this to social media is like throwing sashimi-grade tuna into a shark tank.

In China, reaction on Weibo (its version of Twitter) is particularly harsh since the bloodied disheveled man looked (and is) Asian. So United is also fighting charges of racism — perhaps until it fully explains how it went about choosing the four people total who got bumped from the flight.

Despite this all, no one should be shocked when *nothing changes.*

After the official apologies,

After Congress investigates the practice of overbooking planes,

And after we’ve moved on to another scandal …. United will keep on herding the masses through O’Hare Terminal 1 and this will have little to NO effect on its business.

It *will* impact:

— Employee morale

— Recruiting

— And maybe … advertising in the magazine in the seatback compartment.

But not passengers.

That’s because people choose airlines by

1. Where they need to go

2. And cost

Overheard: “Yeah I saw the video and I’m hoping people stay away so the prices will drop and I can book a cheap ticket to San Francisco.”

As long as the airline isn’t taking shortcuts on safety, the vast majority of folks with United Mileage Plus accounts will stay loyal because any different action would be inconvenient.

And the overall chances of getting beaten up on a United flight are slim because if asked by a polite flight attendant to get out of my seat, I will comply.

Let’s just hope United is smart enough to realize that its main problem is not passengers wearing leggings or an overbooked flight — but a “work to rule” culture — leaving no room for common sense.

Not good at any company, let alone one that’s B2C.

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