The Sunday evening incident in which a United Airlines passenger was violently removed from an overbooked flight has sparked a petition calling for the resignation of the company’s CEO.
Reflecting widespread outrage, the petition has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures demanding that United’s CEO Oscar Munoz relinquish his position. The petition contends that “United could not have handled this situation any worse.”
Following the airline’s statement Monday explaining the incident, Munoz issued a public apology for having to “re-accommodate” customers. An internal letter sent by Munoz defended the airline and asserted that employees followed all protocols, including “politely” requesting that the passenger give up his seat.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” Munoz said in a statement. “Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”
“We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation,” he added.
Videos posted on social media showed a man being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle by his wrists as other passengers protested. The man was reportedly taken off the plane following its overbooking. When no one volunteered to give up their seat, United randomly selected people to be taken off the flight. When one man refused to leave, authorities forcibly removed him.
“It’s a horrifying mistreatment and abuse and we can’t let them get away with it,” the petition reads.
United has been criticized by crisis management experts for its handling of the situation.
“While [Munoz’s apology] would normally be seen as a step in the right direction … United let an entire day elapse before this statement was released, and the messaging in the statement was a far cry from the original statement that was released immediately after the incident,” said Matt Rizzetta, a branding expert and the CEO of North 6th Agency.
“This has created a perception that United is simply reacting to the outpouring of negative sentiment they’ve received on social media since the story first broke, and not a display of genuine concern toward their customers.”
Members of Congress have also weighed in on the incident, with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeting that United “must do more than ‘apologize.’ Full investigation needed. Airlines must start treating passengers with respect, not like cargo.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has insisted on a hearing regarding the matter.
In his letter to United’s staff, Munoz noted that $1,000 in compensation was offered to the passenger in question. Experts contend that a more cost-efficient solution would have been for Untied to continue offering higher compensation until four willing passengers volunteered to give up their seats.
Tuesday saw a greater than 3 percent drop in shares of United’s parent company.
“They should have gone as high as they needed,” Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, told The Hill in a statement. “This is equal to a $100 million comped ticket if weighed on a brand destruction scale.”
H/T: The Hill
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United Airlines’ CEO defends dragging passenger off flight