Only a month after United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was named U.S. Communicator of the Year by PRWeek, he was credited with inciting a PR disaster. Munoz’s backlash resulted from his so-called callous response to a video that quickly went viral in April of two Chicago aviation security officers forcibly dragging a passenger from his seat and down the aisle of a United Airlines plane.
That next day, Munoz apologized on Twitter for “having to re-accommodate customers.” Further adding to what was already perceived as an insensitive response, in a letter sent to United employees, he described the passenger as “disruptive and belligerent” and claimed “employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.”
It wasn’t until the following day that Munoz issued a full apology, saying the issue was “truly horrific.” “I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right,” he said in a statement. “I promise you we will do better.”
Munoz’s response came far too late and, thanks to messaging that contradicted his initial response, lacked the sincerity needed to help amend the situation.
Since the incident occurred, Chicago aviation officials fired the two officers involved and United Airlines not only settled the lawsuit with the passenger, it also implemented new flight policies, which would prohibit United crew members from displacing customers already seated on a plane. The change in policy was somewhat overshadowed by similar announcements by Delta and American Airlines, which were congratulated for a change that was proactive rather than reactive as was the case with United.
The 5 Biggest PR Flops of 2017:
#2: United Airlines’ Turbulence