United Airlines will have a particularly difficult time recovering from what must be the most jaw-dropping public relations gaffe in decades — violently and forcibly removing a paid passenger and doctor, who’d done nothing untoward, so an employee could have his seat — and then defending the affront to ethics and decency as if the company were completely guilt-free.
But United crossed just about every customer service red line known to modern man — images of a bloodied and obviously confused David Dao re-boarding the flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport also dealt the airline the blackest of eyes — and the Internet has been appropriately unforgiving.
Meme culture pounced nearly the instant cellphone video recorded by stupefied fellow passengers hit the web, pricelessly trolling the unrepentant corporation — and actually making a dent.
By Tuesday, United Airlines stock had plunged by over $1.4 billion — that’s billion, with a fat “B” — a dent investors somehow didn’t predict, despite fairly unanimous public disgust.
To the Internet, this violent corporate indiscretion — three aviation officers physically removing a man from his seat and dragging him through the aisle — left little room to argue United’s priorities have nothing to do with its paying customers.
The Chicago Department of Aviation, however, has now suspended the three officers responsible for the corporate-sponsored beat down — and Dao has retained high-powered personal injury attorney Thomas Demetrio for what would seem to be a knockout case. Seventy passengers who witnessed the barbaric removal have been compensated, according to a company spokesman.
Well, except, apparently, top United executives — who would have preferred several people volunteer to be snow-plowed by the company’s poor attempt at layover bribes and wait just one more day to experience their Machiavellian brand of customer service.
Crashing and burning on first attempt at an apology — one laced with snide, Orwellian newspeak the Internet decided would translate as, ‘Well, we told the passenger to get off the flight he paid for’ — United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’ statement read, in part:
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
No wonder the memes began flying — pun, absolutely intended.
Following are a smattering of the gems in which the Internet commemorated United Airlines’ smashingly horrendous customer service — and be warned: some of the following are at least as brutal as the company’s re-accommodation policy.
And, finally — for the truly daring,