Just too painful to watch! (It’s the customer service Darwin Awards story of the year)
When United Airlines oversold flight 3411 by four seats, the crew offered $800 to passengers to reschedule.
United needed to put four crew members on the plane, so they randomly chose four passengers and commanded them to de-plane.
One was Dr. David Dao. He refused to move, insisting he had patients to see the next morning. So they called security.
Security guards literally DRAGGED him out of his seat and off the plane. Horrified passengers caught the incident on video. You can see blood oozing from Dr. Dao’s mouth.
Nothing goes viral like a big corporation dragging a bleeding 67 year old doctor down the aisle of an airplane!
The USA Today Headline said:
United Airlines CEO doubles down, says employees followed procedures, flier was ‘belligerent’
“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help,” the letter says. “While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a BAD APOLOGY?
This has to be the worst apology I’ve heard in years. I predict United CEO Oscar Munoz’ head will roll over this.
This is a STELLAR example of being technically right about a bureaucratic policy, but having an emotional IQ of minus 12.
There’s something very very important we all need to glean from his awful apology.
So before I get to the meat of it… let’s give United Airlines the benefit of the doubt.
- Let’s set aside the fact that United has been financially mismanaged for decades. Let’s forget about the massive government bailouts, the strikes and union conflicts.
- Let’s ignore the fact that whenever I fly United, I always notice their flight attendants seem beleaguered and stressed. I look in their faces and I see men and women who appear to be working and living in a toxic environment.
Let’s suspend all that for awhile.
- Let’s assume that because of the thin margins and economics of the airline industry, United really and truly had no choice but to overbook the flight.
- And let’s imagine that United really and truly had NO CHOICE but to get 4 passengers off that plane. Let’s say they really did have to, for some reason, put 4 crew members on that plane instead.
- And let’s acknowledge that nobody on that plane wanted to go.
- And United really was between a rock and a hard place.
Then if I were CEO Oscar Munoz, here is what I would have said:
“I was as horrified as all Americans everywhere when I witnessed a 67 year old doctor being dragged from one of our airplanes.
“As CEO of United, I take full responsibility for this. It is utterly against our values for any passenger to be treated that way. I have personally called this man and apologized and asked if he will meet with me and our board members privately, so that all of us can express our sorrow over this incident.
“For a very complex set of reasons, the airline had no choice but to ask four passengers to de-plane. In this particular situation, none of the passengers were willing to re-route. We have never encountered that exact situation. Our policy manual did not provide an appropriate set of actions for our crew.
“Had this passenger been carrying weapons or behaving inappropriately, then the use of force would have been entirely appropriate. But it was not appropriate for this 67 year old doctor. So we will be revamping our procedures. We will also closely examine the systems that led to this flight being overbooked in the first place.
I apologize to our employees, our passengers, our Club members, and all airline patrons everywhere. We will make sure this never happens again.”
The only way to get forgiveness is to issue a GOOD apology.
One of the things they never teach you in business school, or PR school, is how to issue a sincere and meaningful apology.
YOU CANNOT PROPERLY APOLOGIZE IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO ADMIT GUILT.
And if you can’t apologize properly, you’ll never be forgiven properly.
This incident dinged United’s stock price and gave them a black eye in front of millions of people.
From now on, every time United overbooks a flight and has to ask passengers to re-route, this story will be murmured throughout the entire plane. This incident cost the company somewhere between $10 million and $100 million.
Everybody knows that regardless of any policy or situation, no passenger who bought a ticket and who was promised a seat should be violently dragged from their seat.
And yes, somebody is guilty.
Swallow your pride, Mr. CEO (ALL of us are guilty at times, are we not?) and admit your guilt.
I promise you, everything will go FAR better afterwards.
P.S.: This abomination is what happens when PROCEDURES matter more than PEOPLE.
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