Dissecting the United debacle

By Paul Wedding

As you’ve probably seen by now on one of your various social media accounts, United Airlines made a massive PR mistake on Monday morning when they forcible removed one of their customers from their airplane to make room for an employee. Of course in today’s era of technology, someone was filming it, and uploaded that video to the Internet for everyone to see. You can see the footage below:

Credit: Reuters


After the situation made the rounds across the various news and social media sites, the CEO of United sent out an apology over Twitter, saying that “We will fix this.” Unfortunately for him, it may have already been too late.  Just a few days after the incident, United’s stock price plummeted by around $900 million. In all probability, the stock will climb up again as soon as the public has found something new to distract them from this. But at the very least this has caused United to change its policy, saying that in the future, crew members would be allocated seats at least an hour before departure. Although this screws some people out of their seats, just in a far less intimate and inconveniencing way.

The thing is that this policy isn’t uncommon among airlines. It’s fairly standard for airlines to kick people off when they need to put on employees, and airlines will often overbook flights to ensure they sell the plane out. The only reason this has become such a debacle is because people were unaware of the policy. And due to the wide reach of social media, this one encounter can  now be seen by millions of people. Before, a company may have been able to get away with this, due to only word of mouth from the witnesses from the plane. But by showing exactly what happened, the visual of the man being dragged from the plane struck an emotional chord with the general public.

Companies now more than ever need to be on their best behavior at all times, because you never know what the entire country may be watching.

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism