After releasing what some have called a defensive non-apology with no humanity, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is out with a new statement about the re-accommodation heard around the world, saying United takes full responsibility and will “fix what’s broken so this never happens again.”
The statement promised a thorough review of crew movement, as well as policies for incentivizing volunteers in oversold situations and an examination of how United partners with airport authorities and local law enforcement – with the results to be shared by April 30.
Calling it a “truly horrific event”, Munoz said it elicited responses including outrage, anger and disappointment “from all of us”.
“I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened,” he said. “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.”
He promised the public United will do better – and even signed the statement, “Sincerely, Oscar”.
It certainly marks a change of tone from his earlier statement, as well as an email on Monday (April 10) that reportedly called the passenger that was forcibly removed “disruptive and belligerent.”
Time will tell if this statement can stem the flood of negative consumer sentiment and brand damage.
According to data from social listening and analytics firm Brandwatch, United has been mentioned more than 2.5m times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the 48 hours since news of the incident broke. Monday saw more than 1.52m mentions with an additional 1m+ mentions on Tuesday (April 11). That’s as of 4:40pm EST on April 11.
The incident has also spawned hashtags like #Flight3411, which has over 547m impressions, as well as #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos, which Brandwatch said has another 294m impressions and the satirical #FlyFriendlySkies has 148m impressions, per Brandwatch data.
And, as The Drum previously reported, the incident could ultimately cost the brand six to seven figures – and demonstrates it failed to learn much from the #Leggingsgate incident on March 26 and that it still underestimates the power of social media.
United has not responded to The Drum's request for comment.