Wow! The alarming visual of an passenger violently removed from a United flight to make way for an airline crew has sparked an unprecedented social media firestorm. At TravelSkills we’ve been fielding media calls and monitoring the situation all day, which is still rather fluid, but mellowing as details and apologies emerge.
First off, let’s look at United’s third and most far reaching apology. United posted this letter from CEO Oscar Munoz and distributed it throughout social media on Tuesday afternoon, about 48 hours after the incident occurred. It takes a much more conciliatory tone compared to previous apologies. Most importantly, it promises a thorough review of the incident, the results of which will be made public by April 30:
Here are a few updates:
USA Today reports that Dr. David Dao, the passenger yanked from the flight and gruesomely bloodied, has hired two Chicago attorneys, Stephen L. Golan and Thomas A. Demetrio, to represent him. In a statement, Golan said that Dao is currently hospitalized. We suspect that there will be a quick settlement and hefty payout for both the victim and the lawyers in this case.
Today United stock took an early tumble, but crept up later in the day. While it does not appear that Wall Street fears a long-term financial hit, PR consultants have been crowing about how the whole incident is “brand suicide,” pillorying United for its inept handling of the situation, and offering advice. Time will tell an interesting tale once the firestorm subsides.
While the incident sparked controversy in the US, it also roared through Chinese social media— within hours, the shocking video we’ve all seen by now reportedly amassed more than 210 million views (and plenty of angry commentary) on China’s popular Weibo.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie is calling for the federal government to ban the airline practice of overbooking. Seems strange coming from a laissez faire minded Republican, but times are strange!
Today CNN posted a good first person interview with Jayse Anspach from Louisville, a passenger seated across the aisle from Dao.
United’s about face on this could be telling in a legal dispute: United: Flight was “sold out” not “overbooked (USA Today)
“Airplanes are dictatorships” wrote the wise Scott McCartney today at the Wall Street Journal in a post about handling overbooking situations. While the post was not specifically about the United incident, its message was clear.
Several salacious headlines began to appear like this one in the New York Post: Doctor dragged off flight was convicted of trading drugs for sex. While Dao’s past is probably irrelevant to this incident, it’s nonetheless interesting.
Mysteriously, the Facebook page of Audra D Bridges (the woman who first posted the most-shared video of the incident) vanished from the Internet today… no explanation, but makes you wonder why.
In a few days or weeks, this too shall pass, and most travelers will be busy looking for great airfare deals for spring break or summer trips. Will this incident have a significant impact on United bookings? We doubt it. But we’ll sure be talking about it all year long!
What do YOU think? Be sure to check the numerous reader comments from our previous post (where there’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, anger, provocative thinking and accusations that I’m taking sides with United) and leave yours here!