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So, it’s a little bit of wordplay. It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention recently – United Airlines is in a little bit of a pickle. But, why? For doing what it does as standard practice – bumping passengers, prioritising crew? Apparently, yes.
A senior citizen was forcibly dragged off an aircraft when he refused to give up his seat for a United crew member who was not booked on the flight. His excuse for refusal to comply; he was a Doctor, who had patients to see in the morning. OK, fair enough. But, let’s go a little deeper. He was travelling with his wife – the airline, rather than choosing to bump an individual travelling alone, chose to bump someone who was travelling with another person – adding extra inconvenience and safety issues to the parties concerned (it’s never good to be split up when travelling).
What concerns me about this case is – are we focusing our anger on the right target?

Yes, United Airlines was the carrier. Yes, United Airlines did an extremely poor job of responding to the plethora of videos, comments, and hatred regarding this; and yes, United Airlines CEO gave such a weak excuse for an apology that he appeared inhumane.

But, is all this negative attention deserved?


The Airport Security / Police were the ones responsible for physically removing the passenger. They are the ones who abruptly assaulted the man, who treated him no better than a caged animal about to go to the slaughter house; and they were the ones, who in front of nearly two hundred individuals, acted in an extremely unprofessional and inappropriate manner given the circumstances they faced. Yes, except for one officer being stood down (there were, however, as I understand, three officers involved), they have avoided the scathing commentaries and impact of this. United’s stock values have fallen, passengers the world over are sharing their negative United stories, and instead of the usual 24 – 48 hours of popularity, this story still dominates headlines more than a week later. Yet, the airline is suffering disproportionately, and those responsible for the actions are happy to let the airline become the scapegoat, rightly or wrongly.
Protest against United Airlines erupted soon after the incident.
What could have been done better? United’s CEO should have made an immediate statement. Policy or not, this is not how customers deserve to be treated. Why did the airline, or other parties, bring up aspects of this man’s past? What does that have to do with how he was treated? Unless of course, it’s airline policy to target those who have a blemish against their name. Why did the first statement from the airline CEO appear so extremely weak and defensive, in the face of multiple video recordings of the event? Why has the airline offered some sort of pathetic compensation to all the passengers on board for the inconvenience, but not to the Asian gentleman and his wife? And why did someone even play the race card?

What could have been done better was an immediate apology, and immediate investigation into the incident, and to the actions of both airline staff and ground staff (including security / Police) – but this seemed slow. They waited, they dragged, and the court of public opinion served a very harsh judgment and penalty on United.

Can United recover? Of course, but it will take longer. As the momentum builds – we see examples of an about-to-be-married couple being kicked off one of their planes, an elderly lady being demoted from her paid-for seat in business class to economy, and generally, we see a “hate United” attitude by netizens.
Yes, they deserve the criticism. No doubt. Yes, they should learn from this – and I believe that they have. But no, they should not be judged endlessly for this situation. At the end of the day, one flight amongst tens of thousands had an incident. Should that put into jeopardy everything else the business is doing? The proportion, and the assignment of blame, is not equitable to the offence committed.

In case anyone wants to lynch me, I in no way advocate or support how this matter was handled; I am as horrified and disgusted as the next person; the people responsible need to be punished fully, but the right people need to be punished in the appropriate scope of the law. Enough is enough – stop the diversion – we have some world leaders taking us to the brink of war – our focus, and energies are needed elsewhere.

An academic at heart, Craig abandoned educating graduates-to-be, only to find himself coaching entrepreneurs instead. Passionate, competent and dedicated at his career as a business consultant, Craig is adept at writing, and solving the most complex of situations. Having joined the industry for more than ten years, Craig, as the current Managing Director at Orchan Consulting Asia, splits his time between providing compelling consultancy, and brainwashing interns into professional food-delivery staff.

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