United Front Against United Airlines
So I guess my opening helps point out what the first mistake made by United Airlines was on the ill-fated day when a paying customer was beaten and drag off the plane. For those of you who do not know what happened, let me sum it up. The week of April 10th United Airlines employees assisted passengers as they boarded the plane. Passengers played the overhead baggage shuffle, climbing over people to get to their window seats and eventually found themselves settled in their seats ready for take off. Then suddenly it was announced that the flight was overbooked and they needed people to give up their seats so that their employees can board the plane. When no one offered to give up their seat's, they "randomly" selected people to be removed from the flight to free up the seats. One of these passengers happen to be a doctor who needed to get back to his office to tend to patients. When he was told to get off the plane, he refused citing he had to return to work. So, and this is where it gets CRAZY STUPID, United had the paying passenger beaten and dragged off the plane to free up a seat. Now, if my child had suggested that as a resolution I would laugh and say "Honey, although this person needs to move, beaten them and dragging out of the chair is not an appropriate action".
As you can imagine, in our world of technology and everyone having some kind of camera on them, many passengers filmed the incident. Video's were everywhere online, a man clearly in pain, beaten and dragged. I;ll admit, it was pretty horrifying to see, I wasn't even there and I was traumatized by the incident. I actually opted to booked my flight with Virgin Airlines instead of United for my business trip next week. Yeah, some people say that making that choice is extreme, but let's be honest - If United their paying customer who was a doctor who needed to care for patients, clearly there would be nothing stopping them from putting their hands on me, my child and anyone else traveling with me. Sorry United, that's just the reality of things.
So how could United Airlines avoided this situation? Seriously, I could come up with about 10 different ways United could have avoided this situation.
First: Hiring people who use COMMON SENSE. Yes, having a degree is great or looking good to bea Flight Attendant can be important factors for some companies when hiring someone. But never under estimate the POWER of COMMON SENSE. Like I said above, if my elementary aged child would have said to be "beat him up and drag him off the plane" I would explain quickly how that is against any possible common sense way of handling the situation. Or even better, don't board a flight if it's over booked. Get the seats freed up before anyone even boards the flight. United, you Failed to have staff who could exercise even the slightness bit of common sense in this situation. If you want things to change, you need to start hiring people who show a high sense of human engagement and common sense abilities.
Second: Say to yourself "Would I be ok with this being filmed on being placed on the internet. Would this be good for customer retention". Yes, this would fall under common sense but it also refers to thinking ahead. Everything a company does is being filmed, like it or not. I couldn't believe when I heard on the news that someone associated with United said the filming was illegal and would be looked into. WTH, are you seriously going to try to turn this around and punish the people who saw injustice and recorded it. This leads me to #3
Three: Don't blame the victim. It's one thing if you had to delay the flight to work out the seating situation. Yes, if the flight was just delayed it would be ok to say publicly that you are sorry for the delay but you asked customers to assist with recooking seats and was unable to get any corporation from the customers on the plane. You could even up-spin a situation like that by both taken blame for over booked the flight and the fact that no one would cooperate either. BUUTTTTT, that is not what happened, you DRAGGED and BEAT a man to remove him from a seat he paid for, so in that situation, NO you can not, even for one second, pretend that the customer owns any part of what you did in this situation. You don't get to blame the victim. You should FIRE anyone in your organization who publicly even made it seem like your company believes any of this was the error of the passenger.
I could go on and on, but I will stop here with the top 3 items. If United Airlines did even 1 or 2 of the top items listed here they would not be in this public nightmare.
United, you have to look at the bigger picture. Not only did you make many people rethink booking with you but you have really opened the eyes to the Urban Community. If United Airlines could beat up a highly educated Medical Doctor for a seat, what would you do to a poor Urban client. Someone who maybe makes minimum wage and can't give up their seat because they will lose their job if they don't get back home in time. Also, think about the next time someone announces "Hi passengers, we have overbooked the flight and would like someone to give up their seat". Imagine the racing hearts of your passengers, those prone to have panic attacks will find themselves in full blown heart racing moments, scared until someone jumps up and offers their seat. Know that from here on out, every time someone from your airlines says "Our flight is overbooked" fear will reign over your customers - wondering who is the next person to be beaten, dragged or even arrested for not giving up the seat they paid for.
United, you need some real damage control to do in order to win the confidence of your customers, current and future. I leave you with this, don't put your hands on people who don't put you in harms way. A simple rule parents teach their kids everyday, a rule about impulse control that would have benefited your company on that ill-fated day.