[By Alex Thompson]

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for United Airlines, albeit, it did find an inventive way to redirect attention away from the original issue.

It all started with two young girls, who were special pass holders, being asked to change out of their leggings to be allowed to take their seats on the plane. Like every airline, it has had a long held policy of a dress code for special pass holders on its flights. However, it’s difficult to measure the public outcry over this alleged sexist action by UA due to the fact that a much more traumatizing event occurred about a week after.

While most are aware of the incident involving a paid passenger being forcibly dragged off of a UA flight, less are aware of the specific crisis resolution actions and, particularly, key messages implemented by UA.

The original reaction by UA was simple and to the point, that the crew followed preexisting procedures for dealing with situations such as these.

This comment was followed up with, “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,” chief executive Oscar Munoz said.

Lastly, Munoz has most recently stated that, “we’re not going to put a law enforcement official… to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger,” thereby acknowledging a need to reevaluate current procedures to ensure future incident such as these do not reoccur.

So how could this have all been handled differently? Misconception, particularly when merged under the banner of another cause or ideal that holds water, is a tough argument for an organization to battle. The primary misconception is around the actions taken by the UA crew and the police. Secondly, because UA was not transparent in how it determines volunteers to remove on overbooked flights, this has evolved into alleged racism for the airline choosing an Asian passenger.

In this specific case, a mea culpa, regardless of actual blame, would’ve gone far to stem the tide of global outrage against UA. It’s isn’t about who is right or wrong, but rather public perception, this is PR 101 and hopefully will be taken into consideration for UA moving forward.

(Photo by Hiljon via Pixabay)