A confrontation between United Airlines employees and a passenger quickly turned violent recently when physician David Dao refused to give up his seat, even though he had paid for his ticket and wasn’t doing anything wrong. The entire conflict was caught on video, which immediately went viral and sparked outrage from one end of the country to the other. (RELATED: Satire – United Airlines launches ‘BEAT It’ car rental company).
Last week, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for a second time, saying in a statement, “I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”
Initially, United Airlines claimed that they needed to remove four passengers from the plane in order to make room for crew members who needed to be in Louisville the following day. However, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said that even though United Express Flight 3411 was filled to capacity, it was not overbooked as United Airlines originally said it was. In other words, not only did the airline company act inappropriately, but it also seems as though United has been caught red-handed in a lie.
To make this public relations disaster even worse, Dao is currently being treated for unspecified injuries at a Chicago hospital and has hired a pair of attorneys to handle the legal side of things. One of the attorneys, Stephen Golan, said in a statement, “The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received.” Golan added that right now the family is focused on Dr. Dao’s health and medical care and that they will not be providing the media with any comments.
Since the confrontation on board Flight 3411, the United Airlines brand has been dealt a significant blow, creating what can certainly be called one of the worst public relations dilemmas within the last few years. Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, described the entire situation as “brand suicide.” In terms of finances, United Airline’s stock has been on a steady decline, amounting to roughly $255 million of the company’s total market value.
Incredibly, this is the second controversy that United Airlines has been wrapped up in in less than a month. In late March, two girls were barred from flying with United Airlines for wearing leggings. According to a witness, another girl who was wearing gray leggings was forced to change before she was allowed to board with the other passengers. United defended the action, arguing that the company has the right to turn away people who are not properly clothed for the “safety of all passengers and crew members.”