Following the forced removal of a passenger last week, United Airlines has been working to repair its public image. Statements recently released from the company’s CEO promise changes to the company’s core values aimed at preventing the occurrence of a similar event. However, the company’s actions say otherwise, as it continues to stumble in the customer service department.
On a flight on Saturday, April 15, a betrothed couple was flying on United with their families from Houston to Costa Rica, where they planned to have their wedding the following Thursday. When they boarded the plane, they found their seats occupied by a man napping and proceeded to sit in empty seats three rows ahead. According to a report published on TIME Magazine, the couple alleges that the flight was mostly empty, and the alternate seats they chose were the same value as their original seats. When a U.S. Marshall asked them to go back to their original seats, and later to leave the plane, they complied without incident.
According a statement made by the United Airlines crew to Reuters, “the couple repeatedly attempted to sit in upgraded seating which they did not purchase and they would not follow instructions to return to their assigned seats […] they were asked to leave the plane by our staff and complied.”
Under normal circumstances, a story like this might easily have passed as a small misunderstanding and been resolved quietly. However, because of the current climate surrounding United Airlines, the incident has now become a well-covered news story and will likely snowball, making it even more difficult for the company to dig itself out of the hole it is currently in.
During a PR crisis, when it rains, it pours. While in the midst of a crisis, everything a company – or its employees – does is under constant scrutiny by the public.
In this case, United Airlines made additional waves while the waters were still settling from its last issue, and the issues it raised were specifically related to customer service promises they made just a few days ago.
It will be interesting to see how round two of United’s continued PR crisis develops. Stay tuned to the Red Banyan blog for the latest updates and analysis.