April 12, 2017

Question of the Week — Is United Airline’s Brand Irreparably Damaged?

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

By now, millions and millions of people around the globe have witnessed a disturbing video where a United Airlines passenger is forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. United, which is certainly no stranger to causing a social media outcry, told passengers that the plane would not leave until four people “voluntarily” gave up their seats to United staff members.

According to news reports, passengers were offered an $800 voucher as compensation to give up their seats. However, when no one volunteered to leave the plane, United chose four passengers to “bump” from the plane. When the unidentified man was told by a United employee that he needed to get off the plane, he allegedly responded that he was a doctor and had to see patients the next morning. The man reportedly further complained that he was being singled out because he is Chinese. Disturbing video shows the man being dragged out of the plane, with blood on his face reportedly due to actions by security personnel. United’s official response defended their right to remove a customer who “refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.”

Whether or not United Airlines is within its legal rights to forcibly remove a passenger, it certainly is in the midst of a public relations disaster; even Merriam Webster couldn’t resist mocking United. At the time markets opened on Tuesday, United’s stock was already down 4%. By Tuesday evening, the hashtag “United forcibly removes passenger from plane” was viewed more than 270 million times on China’s equivalent of Twitter. Some public relations experts have even said that United’s reputational damage could be irreversible.

What do you think? Is United Airlines’s brand irreparably damaged?

Is United Airlines’s brand irreparably damaged?

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