United Airlines … again?

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Let’s start with the positive: unlike last week, this time, the social media team didn’t make a bad situation worse.

Of course, it is also possible that the social media team was shocked into silence. I mean, how do you react to multiple videos showing how a paying customer is being beaten bloody and dragged out of the plane because he didn’t “volunteer” to give up his seat for a United staff member? Maybe like this?


The United Airlines social media team leader after checking mentions of #United (via GIPHY)

Of course, that did not stop late night tv and the internet from telling United Airlines how they felt about the incident.

Here is a selection of reactions:

Business, Economy, Fight Club!

We have been doing this for a loooong time …

“Reaching out” by the CEO has never felt so genuine.

The competition was also fast to react:

You might wonder, why I’m sharing this story and whether there is anything to be learnt from it – aside from “don’t beat your paying customers”. To be honest, my reasons are 90% pure incredulity, but it would also have been possible to handle this better from a PR perspective. For example with compassion from the CEO, rather than by alternatively blaming the victim (in the latter to employees) and hiding behind vapid corporate speech (in the statement).

Here is the short statement that was also referenced by Jimmy Kimmel above:

And here is a suggestions how the longer letter to employees could have been improved:

Update 12 April: After a day of relentless, negative media coverage, including serious backlash in China, United’s CEO released a revised statement that is much more appropriate to the situation and shows the compassion that was missing from his earlier statements. However, whether this is credible, given his earlier statements is an entirely different matter. In fact, the text reads so different from what they published yesterday and last week, that it makes me wonder whether they brought in external help to manage the fallout. In any case, here is the revised statement:

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