Chances are, no one in travel and hospitality particularly wants to work in marketing for United Airlines right now. Rebuilding the brand may take more time than it took to drag a screaming man from the seat he paid for on a flight departing Chicago. Passenger-shot smartphone video of his bloodied face went viral on Monday, along with derision about United’s use of the word “re-accommodate” in its official statement about the incident.
(Warning: Content is disturbing, possibly NSFW.)
The United site bears the same statement the brand included on its Facebook page and via its Twitter account:
Response to United Express Flight 3411
April 10, 2017
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.” — Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines
The video shows police pulling a screaming man out of his plane seat and dragging him, supine and with his torso exposed, down the aisle and toward the aircraft’s front exit. It’s unclear from the video how the man’s injury occurred.
As the man screamed, passengers can be heard on the video saying “Oh, my God.”
“Please,” a female passenger calls out, “my God. What are you doing?”
A man says: “You busted his lip.”
They pull the man past the distraught woman.
“No,” she cries. “This is wrong. Oh, my God. Look at what you did to him! Oh, my God.”
The bloodied man runs back onto the plane repeating, “I have to go home” and “Just kill me.” He's removed from the flight again, reports Complex.
Social Media Responds
None of that looked good for the airline across the Internet. Consumers on social media immediately began to call for boycotts of United.
Pepsi: let's see how hard we can screw our brand?
United Airlines: hold my beer.
— Sara (@UndecidedSara) April 10, 2017
@UnitedAirlines I often have to choose between you and Delta. Since I'd rather not be dragged from a plane, Delta it is from now on!
— drdessertflower (@drdessertflower) April 10, 2017
— Donna Graves (@donnamgraves) April 10, 2017
The top comment on United's statement on its Facebook page was by Tabitha Clancy and appeals to the brand’s business interests:
"Conduct [your] own detailed review?" It would seem it's all over the Internet. Nice try. Big mistake. I'm sure this will be displeasing to your shareholders immediately and over time.
And this opinion piece from the Washington Post won’t help, pointing out that United may not be able to claim it needs to overbook planes in order to remain profitable: “United Airlines’ 2017 business model: Drag a person off a plane, keep raking in record profits”
Christopher Ingraham writes: “United made $2.3 billion dollars in profit last year.”
What do you think? The actions may not have been the fault of the marketing team, but how should they respond to them?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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