The success of every company can be estimated based on how they treat its customers. If a company treats its customers with appreciation and respect, they can expect success. Of course this excludes external factors like economics and a host of other unforeseen events. Unfortunately, United Airlines has just shown the world how not to treat customers.
If you haven’t seen the controversial video, here are the details: On April 9, United flight 3411 flight was traveling from Chicago to Louisville. The airline announced they needed four volunteers to disembark from the plane. United wanted to remove four paying customers so that airline employees could take their seats. The airline offered $800 to anyone who would give up their seat. No one budged. The airline then erroneously placed the importance of employees over paying customers. A definite violation of any basic customer service rule.
United staff then announced they could not leave until four people gave up their seats. After one couple left, airline employees approached Dr. David Dao, a 69-year-old physician who refused to leave. After his refusal, security grabbed him and dragged him off the plane. The doctor lost some teeth, pride, and now requires surgery.
The scene has already been viewed by millions and since gone into defense mode to ease the incident, if possible. United CEO Oscar Munoz went to Twitter and apologized for the incident. He said he is working to resolve the matter. However, this isn’t the first or the last incident involving United. Forbes.com documented the following incidents;
2009: A Canadian musician named Dave Caroll produced several YouTube videos documenting his treatment by United. After baggage handlers destroyed his guitar, United refused to compensate him for the guitar. Although they broke his guitar, he was told to “get over it.”
2013: United came in last in Airline Quality. United’s response? They simply said they weren’t concerned about the rating. The author said that lowering costs was more important than worrying about customers.
2016: Former CFO Jeff Smisek, stepped down from his post amidst accusations of scandal and bribery. However, Smisek walked away with more than $20 million for his troubles.
Sadly, United has gone the way of so many corporations. Corporations become so enormous that they become more focused on the bottom line. They want to keep the revenues flowing while reducing costs. It’s the formula of success for any company. But should a corporation willingly abuse their customers to make a buck? That’s an age old question that every company must decide.
Instead of dragging a senior citizen through the aisles of a dirty airplane aisle, they could have been more considerate and used another strategy. United should have staff members trained in handling this type of situation. Besides, should a customer be beaten because of an airline seating issue? The seat bumping should have occurred before anyone boarded, which is often the case.
Anyone who has been on a flight knows it’s not unusual to hear announcements for flights seeking volunteers to take an alternative flight. Airlines often offer cash incentives, free flights for future travel and hotel rooms. This story is just starting. It will be interesting to see how Dr. Dao responds in court. Most likely, the airline will just write a check and move away from this scandal.
The incident has caused a major stir in the airline industry. Delta has approved its people to offer up to $10,000 for a passenger to give up his or her seat. United has also made a new rule not to remove customers by force if a flight is overbooked. They should call it the “Dr. Dao Rule.” I like Delta’s approach best. If someone wants my seat for $10,000, they can have it. It beats a trip to the ER.