A petition is currently ongoing to have the Chief Executive Officer at United Airlines resign after an incident which involved a passenger getting dragged off an allegedly overbooked flight on Sunday evening.
Public outrage at the incident created a domino effect involving memes on social media, falling stock prices and the video of the incident going viral on most platforms. In an interesting turn of events, the United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz stood by his employees and thanked them for ‘going above and beyond’ but believes there are lessons to be learned from the incident.
He gave an official statement saying “Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night. I deeply regret this situation arose.”
The company’s short original response to the incident was Flight 3411 was overbooked, and the police were called after a passenger that refused to voluntarily leave the aircraft. However, this soon gave way to the full story which was pieced together by police, witness accounts, as well as, the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Apparently, passengers were bumped at the last minute so they could clear the way for employees of the airline and a 69-year-old man adamantly refused to leave resulting in the violent eviction courtesy of the attendants and a Chicago security officer.
The passenger said he was one of four chosen at random and made to give up their seats for employees who had to get to Louisville for another flight. He claimed he was a doctor who needed to get home and see his patients. Passengers who witnessed the incident claim they were disgusted by what happened but would continue to fly United due to necessity rather than preference.
In a number of videos posted on both Twitter and Facebook, security officers are depicted forcibly removing a man from his seat and dragging the passenger, who is kicking and screaming down the aisle as other passengers protested. The security officer that was responsible for dragging the passenger off the plane has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
Too Little Too Late
Crisis management and public relations experts have chastised United for the manner in which it handled the spiraling issue, especially after news came out that two teens were temporarily kept from boarding a United flight because they had leggings on.
While the CEO’s formal apology for the incident would be seen as a step to set things right, the company let a whole day pass before he released the statement and its rhetoric did not seem to coincide with the first statement released by the firm. This has created a perception that United Airlines is just reacting to the bad press they got since the story reached the public.
It does not seem to be a display of genuine concern, and this is what is fueling the figurative barbarians at the gate. Even Congress is getting in on it. Senator Chris Van Hollen tweeted United Airlines “must do more than apologize.’
Munoz claimed in his letter to staff that the four passengers were offered $1000 in compensation for their seats. Some experts claim it would have been better in the long run if they had upped the compensation until the passengers gave in, but it’s too little too late now and this is clear on the financial markets considering shares of the company’s parent company dropped percentage points on Tuesday.