If you recently booked a flight with United Airlines in hopes of “flying the friendly skies,” you may want to rethink that.
As of Sunday morning, the international airline holds the dubious distinction of having the worst PR crisis of 2017 – no small feat when you consider that Pepsi had just taken the lead the week before.
A Shocking Incident Caught on Video
The story begins normally enough for anyone who often travels by air: United Airlines overbooked a flight.
When four United crew members apparently needed to catch Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville, the staff responded by offering any passengers who would volunteer their seats $400 in redeemable vouchers. The amount was increased to $800 when the required seats were not made available.
At that point, the crew began picking passengers at random. Eventually, Dr. David Dao was told he would have to find another flight.
According to reports, Dr. Dao refused, citing that he had to work in the morning.
After that, almost everything about the story is hard to believe.
Law enforcement was called to the plane to forcibly remove Dr. Dao. You can watch the video below, but know that it is incredibly disturbing.
Once the altercation begins, Dr. Dao screams in protest and other passengers can be heard voicing their alarm. Witnesses said that Dr. Dao’s head was smashed against the armrest.
When law enforcement got him to the ground and began dragging him from the plane, he went quiet.
However, Dr. Dao somehow boarded the craft again. His face was bloody and in the below video, it is clear he may be in shock.
How Could This Have Happened?
Aside from the obvious problems with this incident, many people are wondering how United Airlines could possibly be caught so unprepared.
After all, overbooking is a normal – albeit controversial – practice in the airline world. People regularly don’t show up for their flights, so airlines often overbook them so they’re not flying with empty seats.
That may solve the airline’s problem, but passengers regularly find themselves getting bumped from flights as a consequence. Understandably, they’re never happy about this.
Given how often overbookings happen, how could United Airlines employees not be better able to handle this situation?
Why were passengers able to board in the first place if they were just going to be asked to leave?
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to increase the amount United Airlines would pay to see if any passengers would accept a larger sum before using physical force?
In any case, this incident is going to cost the company millions in lost customers to say nothing of the lawsuit that will most likely be filed.
You can also expect their reputation to suffer greatly, too, especially when you consider that…
United Airlines Has a History of Bad PR Incidents
One explanation for the incident is that United Airlines has shown an inability to consider public opinion for some time now:
You may recall that last month, the company found itself in hot water for barring two teenage girls from a flight because they were wearing leggings. It turns out that this was against company policy for people using an employee discount to fly. Apparently, the girls were using a family member’s employee discount, which meant the dress code applied to them.
Back in 2008, musician Dave Carroll discovered that his guitar had been damaged to the tune of $1,200. The passenger sitting next to him reported seeing baggage handlers throwing a guitar case to the ground before takeoff.
Carroll was forced to pay the bill himself and later wrote a song called, “United Breaks Guitars,” which ended up going viral, ensuring that everyone knew of United Airlines’ blunder.
So far, United Airlines is showing they haven’t learned their lesson from any of these incidents. Will this be the one that finally does it? If it isn’t, it’s hard to imagine what kind of horrible event it would take for the company to realize their brand of customer service won’t fly.