Last year, United Airlines were in the news so much even pigeons got jealous. But sadly, the infamous carrier got all the press for the wrong reasons.
The airline was plagued with controversies back to back that I even stopped to wonder if they were episodes in a Netflix production. It had fights, bloodied noses, broken bones and even, dead animals.
If you have ever watched the 1999-thriller Deep Blue Sea, you might relate. Like with sharks in the movie, the bites just keep on coming.
Just when United thought it was free from controversy — just like how everyone in the movie finally figured a way to make it all stop — bam! You are shark chow!
Let’s take a look at a few incidents that landed (pun, unintended!) United Airlines in hot water (again, unintended!) it is in today.
Described as a “truly horrific event” by CEO Oscar Munoz himself, this incident tops the list. Kentucky-based doctor David Dao suffered a broken nose and lost two teeth when he was forcefully deplaned last April.
This unexpected event sent shockwaves through the media, incensing and infuriating all those almost everyone who heard of it.
When people book flights they expect to reach their destination comfortably and all in one pieceman — not manhandled or mistreated.
Just like the Jim (Stellan Skarsgard) and Russell (Samuel L. Jackson) in Deep Blue Sea didn’t think they would be eaten up by the very sharks under their captivity, no passengers expect to be thrown out of a flight they paid for.
Humans would have character flaws; one person might differ from the other by race, sex, orientation and many other factors. But none of this warrants anyone to be treated the way United did Dr. Dao.
While everyone thought the backlash got United to mind its people skills, another incident shortly hit the news. The airline didn’t let a couple of girls board a flight because it was against their dress code. All they did was wear leggings. Just imagine.
Sure, they were United pass riders — flying free or discounted thereby subject to dress codes and restrictions… but is this really the message the airline wants to propagate? “Wanna dress up? Better pay up.” Evidently, United missed the flight to how youngsters think in the 21st century!
In the age of freemium, free stuff coming with some sort of a price really doesn’t fly (pun, unintended!)
So after this plethora of significant PR fails, more news reports came swooping in. One was that the airline allegedly gave away a two-year old’s seat to a standby passenger — even after the mother paid for it. She had to complete her journey with the toddler on her lap.
They also reportedly sent a French woman bound for Paris to San Francisco. Mon Dieu! Pardonnez moi? The problem? She could only speak French.
2017 was a gory gift that kept on giving for the airline. By the middle of the year, United was accused of being mean not just to humans, but also our furry friends — like the shark that ate Preacher’s parrot in the film.
The first victim was a golden retriever named Jacob who passed away after being kept in a small crate for 20 hours.
Months after, a giant rabbit named Simon died during a trip from Britain to the Iowa State Fair.
In August, another canine died in the cargo hold, this time a 5-year-old King Charles Spaniel called Lulu.
In a world where many consider pets as part of the family, the loss of United is much more than the compensation they had to dish out.
The latest pet mishap, and thankfully not a fatality, was Dexter the Peacock. Dexter was no ordinary peacock, mind you, he was an emotional support peacock. (Surprise surprise, he is on Instagram as well!)
Not only was the owner with special needs put under immense stress after not allowed the bird to board his flight causing much stress to his owner. Now if you had pulled something like this in India, you would have found yourself in a lot of trouble. The peacock is the national bird there. (Plus, as a rule, you don’t mess with anyone named ‘Dexter.’)
The plethora of mishaps that befell the United brand makes you wonder if it is an elaborate Christopher Nolan-penned ploy to take down the airline. If so, this is the work of one pretty grand master villain. (Okay now I’m just letting my imagination run wild.)
In conclusion, let us admit one thing — all these incidents and issues do not bode well for United Airlines and most importantly, its stock.
Historically, the market had not been kind to companies losing face, and so reputation is not a laughing matter.
If United continues its parade of bad press and frightening incidents, along with passengers, the investors will stop flying high with it. There are always other birds in the sky.
So United, please pull your socks up, or you might just go down. (Pun intended!)
By the way, did you hear about the engine falling apart mid-flight? Welcome to 2018, United!!