How can I resist commenting on United Airlines extraordinarily serious faux pas on Sunday?Airline officials had a passenger forcibly removed from an oversold flight, dragging him down the aisle and off the plane. The shocking scene was captured on video and it has gone viral globally, and the story is even capturing front page news in China. There are two lessons here. First is that the airlines need to take stock of how they manage their attempt to crunch more and more lowly passengers into their sardine cans. Overbooking strategies resulted in 430,000 passengers negotiated off of overbooked flights in 2016. Worse yet, 40,000 were involuntarily denied boarding last year for seats that they purchased. The consolidation of the airlines has increased passenger loads to almost full capacity, yet the airlines continue to squeeze more juice out of the flying public, with the business traveler left to suffer the most. The second lesson is for the PR mavens at United who have the ability to botch how they handle messes like the one on Sunday, and just two weeks ago the mess they created after their denial of boarding two young girls who were wearing leggings because they were traveling on employee passes. Really, leggings for teenagers? To top it off, yesterday United’s CEO publicly supported how the ejection of the passenger was handled, notwithstanding the global social media outcry for the man who was bloodied and hospitalized after the incident. Amazing!
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