Change Your Altitude

United Updates Bump Policy – For the Better

If you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve completely missed United’s PR nightmare, after a passenger, who was involuntarily bumped after boarding and refused to leave the plane. Airport security was called, and when the passenger refused to leave, a string of unfortunate events unfolded which resulted in the passenger suffering from a broken nose, and a concussion (among other things).


What happened next?


Well, first, United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, issued an internal memo to show support for the actions of the crew (followed by a 4% drop in their stock price), before issuing a press release expressing his apologies in what happened and taking full responsibility for the incident. (PS – Munoz even went on Good Morning America to speak to the subject – and while he came off sincere, the court of public opinion had made its ruling – this was all too little too late.


For those who can’t keep track of everything – here’s the play by play:

  • Sunday, April 9 – Dr. David Dao and 3 other passengers were involuntarily bumped from United Express flight 3411. Dao refused to leave the plane, resulting in an altercation with airport security and physical injuries on Dao’s side.
  • Monday April 10 – Oscar Munoz issues an internal response to the incident, supporting the United crew and their actions.
  • Early Tuesday April 11 – United’s stock drops 4% in reaction to the fiasco
  • Tuesday April 11 – Munoz issues a public apology, taking full responsibility for the incident
  • Wednesday, April 12 – Munoz appears on Good Morning America, apologizes again for incident. United refunds tickets for all passengers on flight.


The Scoop

In a long-awaited move, United released an internal update to policy, which would basically prevent this from ever happening again. The document was leaked by TMZ, and you can see the details below:

Image credit: TMZ


In short, crew members who need to catch a flight to position themselves for a flight they must work, they must have their reservation made at least an hour in advance, to ensure that if passengers must be denied boarding, it is done before they (well,) board.


The Takeaway

While I’m glad United has taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again, it’s disappointing it took them five full days to get to it. I’m not sure why so many apologies (some more sincere than others) were issued before action was taken.

No doubt, this was a difficult situation – the incident got physical and escalated quickly. But at the end of the day it was clear – United was forcing paying customers off a flight that was not oversold to make room for crew members who needed to get on the flight at the last minute. There are a lot of what-ifs when it comes to the situation, but United took their time to own up to the blame (which, to be fair, they had to do their research), but I’m not sure that the apology was enough at this point.

It’s worth noting that Oscar Munoz was voted Communicator of the Year earlier in March of this year by PRWeek. (Yikes.)

I’m not much of a United fangirl in general, and while I’ve heard some painful stories about their lack of customer service, I always assumed it couldn’t possibly worse than those on American and Delta. Well, congratulations United, you’ve proved me absolutely wrong.

In the days that followed the incident, there has only been more grumblings – from passengers bumped from a flight on their way to their wedding, to a first class passenger downgraded to economy on a revenue ticket to make room for a “more important” passenger. It’s hard to tell if this kind of customer “service” is actually business as usual for United or if the chatter is just louder in light of recent events.

Let’s hope this change in policy is a step in a more important direction – one that focuses on service that will benefit the customer and not just United’s bottom line. 


United loyalists – what’s your take on this? 



Featured image credit: United


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