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Emirates puts the boot in as United squirms

April 13, 2017 Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

As if United Airlines wasn’t having a hard enough time, being pilloried on social media for its outrageous mishandling of an overbooked flight – and now competitor Emirates has just released a mocking video.

In a public relations disaster a couple of days ago, United solved an overbooking problem on a US domestic flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport by getting security to drag a passenger from his seat and down the aisle. The man, a doctor, had refused to go voluntarily. See: Screaming doctor dragged off overbooked flight

Relishing its rival’s discomfort as backlash over the incident grew, Emirates quickly posted a 34-second YouTube video. While not referring directly to the overbooking fiasco, the Emirates video mocks United and its chief executive Oscar Muñoz, reminding viewers that Muñoz just a few weeks ago complained about Emirates and other Gulf carriers: “Those [Gulf] airlines aren’t airlines. They’re just branding vehicles for their countries.”

Emirates calls its video “Fly the friendly skies with a real airline – Emirates Airline”. That’s a dig-in-the-ribs because “Fly the friendly skies” is a time-honoured United slogan.

United’s share price fell after its overbooking incident. The victim dragged off the plane has been identified by media as Dr David Dao, 69, a Vietnamese-American. Earlier, however, it was thought he was Chinese, which went down very badly in China. China’s social media service Weibo went ballistic, with over 150 million views and about 100,000 comments, almost all of them negative.

There has been talk of boycotts in China, a market United is very keen to grow.

Muñoz meanwhile has released three statements. In the first, Muñoz fully defended the actions of his staff, though he described the event as “upsetting” and apologised for “having to re-accommodate these customers”.

The second statement was more conciliatory. The third and most recent statement, sent to United employees yesterday, is abjectly apologetic, as follows:

Dear Team, 

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. 

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right. 

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th. 

I promise you we will do better. 



Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Michael Krape says:

    The United CEO might survive this, but how many PR agencies have been ditched in trying to find the ‘right’ words to say, “I’m sorry”?

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