United Airlines Bleeds Amidst Worldwide Backlash On Poor Treatment Of Customer

Photo credit: Aero Icarus

Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.

While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.


The foregoing letter was sent to employees by United Airlines’ chief executive officer, Oscar Muñoz.

He was, however, forced to take a new position given the negative feedbacks from stakeholders, netizens, civil society, among various other interest groups.

Consequently, in what is described as a third attempt at a mea culpa Muñoz reportedly wrote thus:

Dear team

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment.

I share all of those sentiments and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened.

Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.

No one should ever be mistreated this way.

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.

This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement.

We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

In the meantime, chief executive officer Muñoz has rebuffed calls for his resignation while lawyers for the passenger, Dr. David Dao, have issued a statement stating that they were focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment in a Chicago hospital.

Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an inquiry into the incident, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for new rules to curb the airline practice of overbooking flights.

At the same time, United Airlines shares dropped by 4 percent over the course of the week. The stock ended up at $69 on Thursday, reducing the company’s market cap by $770 million to $21.5 billion.

Among the biggest individual losers of the week according to press reports were Warren Buffett and United Continental CEO Oscar Muñoz.

Buffet is reportedly lost $52.4 million in value for his United stock, assuming he still owns the 28,951,353 shares he reported in February while  Muñoz whose handling of the incident has been widely criticized is set to lose at least $500,000 in compensation if United customer satisfaction falls.

More than 80,000 people so far have also signed a petition to the White House asking for an investigation into the incident which led to the passenger busted up and dragged off the airline.

Barbara Greene, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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