Things just keep going from bad to worse for United Airlines. After last week’s unfortunate events surrounding the dragging of a passenger from one of its planes, the company would probably like the whole PR nightmare they’re experiencing to just end up like most of yesterday’s news. That doesn’t seem likely to happen, though.
Every day, there seems to be more disappointing news for the company and its CEO, Oscar Munoz. First came the demands from angry protesters for the removal of Munoz as CEO, then the #BoycottUnited hashtag began trending, and now a new poll by Morning Consult shows that out of a survey of 2,000 Americans, more than 40 percent of the people said they would rather pay more or take a longer trip than fly United Airlines.
By now, the video of Dr. David Dao, a 69-year-old passenger on a United Airlines flight last week, has been seen around the world. The flight that Dr. Dao had boarded was reportedly overbooked. The airline needed to make room on the flight to accommodate four airline employees who needed to get to work on another delayed flight. The airline made monetary offers to any passengers willing to give up their seats, but they received no takers. At this point, they made the unfortunate decision to select four random folks to deplane in order to make room for the United employees. Dr. Dao, one of the selected passengers, refused to give up his seat, citing his need to get back to his patients the next morning. The rest of the story is viral video history.
The ensuing public outcry may not have snowballed so wildly out of control had United’s CEO immediately denounced the actions of the police officers and flight crew who allowed the dragging incident to happen. Instead of an apology, Munoz basically justified the dragging incident and praised the flight crew for “following company protocols” during the who debacle. It was only after the police department suspended one of the officers involved, and after the airline was viciously dragged in the news and on social media, that the embattled CEO finally changed his tune and made an official apology.
As many expected, after a couple days of silence and recovery, Dr. Dao hired the law firm of a Chicago personal injury lawyer, Thomas A. Demetrio, to pursue a lawsuit against United Airlines. Mr. Demetrio has handled many high-profile cases and says that the lawsuit will probably be filed in the Illinois court system. In a recent press conference, the well-known lawyer says that he believes the apology that came from United Airlines was “staged.” He also noted that he didn’t think the incident was racially motivated. However, Mr. Demetrio did characterize the choices the airline made on the fateful flight as an example of “how airlines, United in particular, have bullied us over the years.”
Mr. Demetrio also shared that his client, whose injuries include a concussion, two knocked out teeth and a broken nose, may need reconstructive surgery as a result of hitting his head while being dragged off the plane.
What Does This Mean for United’s Future
It’s hard to say how this whole fiasco will play out in the end. Will Oscar Munoz step down as CEO? Will United stock continue to plummet? Will airlines change their policies around the handling of overbooked flights? Will David Dao be successful in winning his lawsuit against United? If so, how much will it cost the airline? Whatever happens, it is certain that the world will continue to be watching — with cameras at the ready.
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]