United is really going into crisis control mode today, following a very bad couple of days (and I guess a very bad couple of weeks, given the previous leggings incident). This morning Good Morning America ran an interview with United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz. There’s no denying his tone changed drastically, as he took responsibility for what happened, saying (after a long pause) that the passenger had no fault in what happened. I suspect United’s PR people were thrilled to hear him say that, while United’s lawyers probably weren’t.
As of the time of the interview, Oscar said that they hadn’t yet been able to get in touch with the passenger, and that the first thing they wanted to do was apologize. If I had to guess, I’d say that Dr. Dao’s lawyer will be getting in touch with United, rather than the other way around. 😉
United is now taking their apology to the next level, and extending it to the other passengers on the flight. USA Today is reporting that United will be refunding the fares of all passengers on United 3411 on Sunday, April 9, or as they explain it “compensation for the cost of their tickets.” In practice I’m not sure what that will look like, since most passengers were probably connecting from elsewhere. Hopefully it’s a full refund, rather than a partial refund for just that segment, which would seem like a very cheap way to handle this PR stunt.
I’m still not sure of what to make of United’s apology, and specifically, Oscar’s apology. Up until this incident he has been a very well liked guy, and for good reason. It’s not often you have an airline CEO who is loved by employees (given the “us” vs. “them” mentality in the airline industry), yet Oscar is the exception.
While I think he said most of the right things in the last interview, there’s still one thing I take issue with. He was asked why he didn’t initially communicate the “shame” he claims that he immediately felt when watching the video, as it took United two days to issue a real apology. He blamed the lack of a response on him wanting to first get all the facts surrounding the circumstances, which is why he used the term “re-accommodated,” etc., rather than issuing an apology. But is that really believable?
In that initial statement he called the passenger “disruptive and belligerent,” and said the facts are evolving around why the passenger defied the Chicago Police the way he did. So it’s one thing if his initial statement reflected the lack of facts in the case. However, the opposite was the case, as he drew lots of conclusions, even after the airline already had a good amount of time to investigate. So it’s hard to believe there’s any sincerity to this apology. JoJo’s song, “Too Little Too Late,” comes to mind.
I’ll be very curious to see how this all plays out, in particular with Dr. Dao. Though something tells me this matter will be settled with him privately out of court…
What do you guys think — is there anything United can do to fix this mess?
This has been a quickly-moving story with myriad updates. The full coverage of the United incident from the One Mile at a Time team is as follows: