Mean, stupid, and scary

You might have heard: UNITED flight from Chicago to Louisville, full up! UNITED suddenly wants to put four employees on the flight. Any volunteers to take a later flight? Some, but not enough!

screen grab

We’ll be reviewing why everyone hates us now.

Somehow select 69-year-old passenger, order him off. He refuses to give up his seat! Says he is doctor who needs to get to Louisville to treat patients. Goons grab him, drag him down the aisle & off plane! Banging face into armrest! Shrieking and bleeding from dragged man! Shrieking and recording from other passengers!

MASSIVE OUTRAGE on social media. (Diversionary tactic by current administration, tired of hearing criticisms, no matter how justified? Naah. Just a lucky break.)

Was there apology?

Of a kind. Of a worthless kind. No, worse than worthless. The kind of apology that infuriates.

[Sumac: I know u r busy w Passover prep, but any chance u can get this? Snarly: Can’t, so so crazed!]

This happened Sunday. A spokesperson for UNITED said:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.

Horrible. Minimizing. They merely asked law enforcement to help. Passive voice: “the overbook situation.” Blame shifting. Who are these unnamed “authorities”? Which law enforcement?

The Chicago Sun-Times indicates that it was the Chicago Department of Aviation police force indulging in the strong-arm tactics. However it was a Chicago Police Department news affairs officer who released a statement saying: “At approximately 6:00 p.m., A 69-year-old Asian airline passenger became irate after he was asked to disembark from a flight that was oversold. The passenger in question began yelling to voice his displeasure at which point Aviation Police were summoned. Aviation Officers arrived on scene attempted to carry the individual off the flight when he fell. His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face. The man was taken to Lutheran General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Ongoing investigation.”

This does not pretend to be an apology, but we will note in passing that it is also horrible. Dishonest. The videos taken by passengers show that he didn’t “fall” and strike an armrest. The blow from the armrest occurred as he was being jerked from his seat by burly guys. The police department soon took the statement down. “That was not a formal statement by me or CPD,” a CPD spokesman emailed the Sun-Times.

Monday is another day, with another ghastly stupid statement from United, specifically from CEO Oscar Munoz. Instead of saying “HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL,” he said:

This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.

Horrible horrible horrible. Who’s upset? Those poor people at UNITED. Not the passenger who was hurt and dragged off and whose image is now around the world. Not the passengers who saw his mistreatment. The apology sentence is dreadful. Think about the euphemism “re-accommodate.” Think about the fact that the passenger was taken to the hospital due to the effects of his “re-accommodation.” How would you feel if UNITED said they were going to “re-accommodate” you?

[Snarly tweeted, “SorryWatch regrets that due to manic Passover prep, we are unable to tear the United Airlines ‘apology’ the new one it deserves. @united” “We”? Wait, how is a McCarthy doing Passover prep? Long story. Great country.]

UNITED spokesman Charlie Hobart told the PA, “We followed the right procedures. That plane had to depart. We wanted to get our customers to their destinations.”

The right procedures? Sure, BECAUSE IT TURNED OUT SO WELL.

screen grab

SorryWatch didn’t post pictures of dragged man’s bloody face or of him being dragged, because seemed like adding to his mistreatment. Might’ve posted video but no time.

What seems to have happened after they dragged the bleeding passenger off the flight is unlikely to persuade anyone that the airline or the police handled things well. A few minutes later, he returned, seeming dazed. Distressed, disheveled, he trotted up and down the aisle and exclaimed “I have to go home, I have to go home, I have to go home!” The police followed him. A man who was traveling with some high school students stood up and said they were getting off. About half the passengers did likewise. Then UNITED told everyone to get off the flight. So they could tidy up the plane. The dragged man was put on a stretcher and carried off – presumably to the hospital. The flight left 3 hours later, without the dragged man.

They overbooked. Which happens all the time, tens of thousands of times a year, without scenes like this. Then they announced that they wanted to bump four people to give those seats to their own employees. They didn’t offer sufficient bribes to get four people off the plane, only three. When they picked a passenger who said he was a doctor who needed to travel so he could treat patients the next morning, did they pick someone else? No, THEY CALLED THE COPS.

(Chicago cops. Uh huh.)

They handled it very badly. You could have done a better job. Snarly could have done a better job. I could have done a better job. MY DOG COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB.

This makes UNITED look bad. Mean. Stupid. And scary.

That “Friendly Skies” thing? Totally out of date.

[Sumac: “How much chicken broth for the matzoh ball soup? You’re kidding.”]

This entry was posted in Bad Apologies, Corporate Apologies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Mean, stupid, and scary

  1. simple-touriste says:

    “Diversionary tactic by current administration, tired of hearing criticisms, no matter how justified?”

    I am not sure what you talking about…

  2. A more complete version of that letter is doing the rounds today. It contains this: “While I deeply regret this situation arose…”

    So many layers of wrong! The United CEO didn’t personally make the poor choices the ground staff and law enforcement did, but he *did* personally sign off on the policies surrounding denied boarding, staffing levels, crew positioning, compensation, and other workplace issues that determined how the crew behaved and created the situation in the first place.

    What a mess.


    • sumac says:

      That’s a whole new letter — to United employees.

      How could he possibly have guessed it would become public? How could he have known that this is 2017?

  3. Ernie in Berkeley says:

    After surely consulting with crisis management experts, United released a revised apology.

  4. Andy in Texas says:

    I realize this story is still developing, even now, three days after the event itself, but based on what we know now, I wish people would stop referring to the “overbooking” of the flight. Whether the flight was overbooked is not established or relevant. They needed the seats, not because they oversold, i.e., sold more tickets to paying customers than they had seats, but because they had a flight crew – United employees – who needed to get to Louisville to staff a scheduled flight leaving from there. United’s dishonesty extends beyond the smarmy initial statements, or the defense of the flight crew and police officers. They haven’t even been honest about the situation itself.

  5. I’m eagerly awaiting a new posting on the CEO’s appearance today on ABC?’s morning news. Either it’s taken him three days to react like a normal human to the video *or* he never saw the video until last night and was relying on descriptions relayed to him by a chain of minions, each of whom sanitized the incident slightly en route.

    There is also some dispute over whether the Daily Mail smeared the right David Dao. Farhad Manjoo has a good piece in the NY Times about technology’s role in leading airlines to the bottom wrt customer service.


  6. Divinea says:

    Why on earth is this man’s ethnicity germane to United’s Office of Damage Control, let alone inserted into a public statement?

    One wonders if there is racism inherent in his selection, or a racist assumption that he would go quietly, being Asian and all.

  7. You can find the Pre-shame Round-up of all four United/Muñoz statements, conveniently collated, on a number of sites, including here…
    …and here…

  8. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    After following this whole awful business for days, I can only say that CEOs should follow the code of bushido, or at least the part about seppuku (I hope I’m using the terms correctly) after bringing deep shame on oneself or one’s family, friends, or institution.
    It would certainly be cathartic for those of us who feel helpless in the face of those who place power and ever-increasing money over doing the right things.
    Or maybe at least to allow Dr. Dao to nominate someone to have five uninterrupted minutes with Mr. Muñoz and a baseball bat.

  9. Pingback: The Political Spectrum, book review: How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone - InfoSecHotSpot

  10. Pingback: –The Political Spectrum, book review: How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone –

  11. Pingback: The Political Spectrum, Book Review: How Wireless Deregulation Gave Us the iPhone – Smart News Center

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam Control *