When exactly will United Airlines stop digging this hole for itself? Who knows. But the company seems determined to keep going until they hit the Earth’s core.
As millions around the world have now seen, United began its descent into this social and legacy media nightmare when it was announced earlier this week to a full flight from Chicago to Louisville that four people would have to go to make room for four United employees who had to get to Chicago instead.
The seemingly cold, anti-customer essence of that request aside, what happened next was disgraceful—a 69-year old man was dragged, bloodied and beaten, off of the plane after he refused to relinquish the seat he had paid for. Most who have seen the video have likely recoiled at the sheer brutality of it all.
“I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” That’s how United’s CEO Oscar Munoz chose to communicate in his public statement.
Webster’s Dictionary has several different definitions for the word “accommodate,” all of which center around providing something desired, something for which agreeable consideration is made. The final entry is the most succinct: “To make fit, suitable or congruous.”
And while we’re at it, the Webster’s definition of “re-accommodate” is simple: “To accommodate again.”
It’s fair to say that no one who has ever been treated the way this gentleman was—roughed up, battered, possibly knocked unconscious—has ever felt “accommodated.” And surely they would not want to be “accommodated” like this all over again.
Munoz’s tone deaf response was the height of empty corporate speak, as well as remarkably disingenuous and bafflingly unapologetic. The result has been international mockery and condemnation; pretty much universal outrage blew up on social media all day yesterday and it continues today, and published reports have indicated that in just one day United has lost roughly $800 million in value. So far.
No one should have needed hindsight to know that a real apology, followed by a decisive plan to correct the action, was the only option to protect United’s brand and move forward.
Instead the CEO opted to go in the exact opposite direction, doubling down and refusing to do the right thing for this injured senior citizen or for the company. This crisis is not likely to go away anytime soon, not as long as United thinks it can simply pass it off with thoughtless, empty banality.