What a week for United Airlines (UAL), and it’s only Tuesday!
On Sunday they forcibly removed a passenger from one of their flights to help free up space for standby passengers. A 69-year old doctor. By “forcibly”, I mean they called the airport cops on him and those cops proceeded to beat the crap out of him to get him out of the seat. After they somehow manage to help him hit his face on the armrest they drag his limp body from the plane, possibly unconscious. In fact, later in the video he somehow managed to get back onto the plane and is dripping blood from his mouth everywhere while speaking as if he’s disoriented. It’s ok though, we were assured by the CEO Oscar Munoz that this is per normal procedure and United was well within their rights to do so because the flight was overbooked. Of course…an apology probably would have been a better idea, but who am I to play PR guy? Mr. Munoz did, however, sort of (I guess) apologize for “re-accommodating” the passenger. When I was younger we called that “ass-whipping”, my how things have changed.
Next, to make it even more awesome the cops who issued the beating released their own press statement saying they were called in to remove a passenger who then “fell”. That’s the kind of language I expect from a movie mafia boss, not an official Police Department statement. Are they not aware that literally EVERYBODY not only has a camera on them, but is just waiting for these moments to use it?
Sadly, United managed to screw up the response so badly again that almost nobody even cares about the obvious lie by the police at this point. Mr. Munoz, not content with damn near ruining his brand, decided to try again, this time by sending out a statement to the employees essentially blaming the man because he was asking for it. Hey, no internal email has ever been leaked, right? Saying nothing would have been a better option.
After all of this the real story starts to come out. Apparently the flight wasn’t overbooked. United had four employees they wanted to move to a different airport and they illegally had passengers give up their seats. You see, this practice is legal in an overbooking situation when they follow certain rules. This doesn’t apply to them ferrying their own employees around. Of course that part was conveniently left out originally. Plenty of liars in this, it would be best to start taking notes to keep up.
With the criticism mounting and the share price dropping, events took a rather bizarre turn on Tuesday when a “journalist” named Lisa Fletcher with WJLA released this tweet:
There are several things wrong with this. First, what kind of reporter hears about a dude getting the snot beat out of him on a plane by the hand of the cops at the word of the airline, afterward receiving a backhanded non-apology and decides to go dig up dirt on the victim? What kind of reporter is that? Does his past somehow show that he purposely knew this would happen and instigated the whole thing? Second, why would you tweet about this in the middle of the shit storm that’s currently erupting? On top of that another paper had already tried the stunt and got slapped down. This thing is toxic to the PR of everyone who touches it. Unless you are the best knight in the shiniest armor it would be best to stay the hell away from it. Fourth, what does any of this have to do with anything? I don’t care if she has photos of the guy screwing monkeys and he has zoo passes on him. United didn’t know anything about his past and neither did the police when they acted illegally. It’s irrelevant here. This has to be one of the most irresponsible examples of “journalism” I’ve ever seen.
Not surprisingly after being absolutely destroyed on Twitter for victim shaming and drug through the mud by other media outlets (that has to be a record low), she deleted the tweet and threw a hissy-fit at everyone who took issue with it, because reasons I guess. Classy.
While all of this was going on the internet rage machine picked up speed and United lost around $1bn in their valuation in the stock market briefly. I’m not really sure what they thought would happen, this seems like a pretty logical outcome.
United received an awesome amount of memes throughout this time over twitter. My favorite was this one:
So, after all of this Oscar Munoz, two days later on Tuesday afternoon, finally issued what could be seen as an actual apology:
“The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customer aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.”
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say that to begin with? I guess after being beaten to hell and back in the media for two days and losing a billion dollars in value everyone is supposed to believe that this is the most sincere apology ever. We’ll see.
I’m curious to see if it makes a difference. I’m not inclined to believe that this will be the end of United but I do suspect it may be the catalyst for some much-needed industry changes. I’m sure the other airlines, while happy to get the extra business, are probably not too happy with United for putting the spotlight on everyone.
Fox News, in their everlasting need to stay controversial and teetering on the edge of flat out wrong, published this opinion piece called “United Airlines is innocent“. Because of course they did, it wouldn’t be Fox news otherwise. The article actually starts out somewhat hopeful because Fox, unlike other outlets was starting to remember that the cops did the beating and lied about it. However they found a way to totally absolve United from any responsibility in typical Fox News fashion (businesses can never do any wrong). They did this by completely ignoring most of the facts which have come out over the past two days. It was a nice change to see omission by ignorance as the cause and not flat out lying though, so that’s nice.