United Airlines PR disaster – Mr Munoz will go far
The United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is clearly heading for great things. Not only did he defend the actions of the security goons in Chicago on the grounds that the unfortunate doctor who was booted off the flight to Louisville was being “disruptive and belligerent”, but he stated that “While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”
That’s what’s known in the media business as doubling down.
What, I wonder, would be flying wrong? Picking on an Asian couple would entirely chime with the Trumpian age. What the hell were they doing on the flight in the first place? Perhaps flying wrong would be to select a nice middle-class couple of a less obvious ethnic origin and dragging them screaming and kicking off the flight. Or insisting that your staff shouldn’t leave it to the last moment to get home in time for work, and expect those who pay their wages to have their lives thus disrupted. Or insisting that your people should have the foresight to avoid an on-board rebellion by selecting those to be denied boarding before they actually get on the plane.
What, I wonder, does United’s procedures handbook say about these matters? Is there a section about profiling targets for extraction? As in “if you have to kick someone off the flight, choose an elderly Asian doctor, because his culture abhors confrontation. Don’t go for a 300-pound American footballer who could probably punch a hole in the fuselage without the help of explosives. And don’t go for an elderly matron who looks like your grandmother, or every other grandmother on the flight will rise in solidarity. Don’t select anyone in uniform, or you might be accused of being unpatriotic.”
Probably not. Most likely this wisdom is passed on orally – nothing written down.
If I was happily settled into my seat, having anaesthetised my legs to allow them to fold up into an stress position behind the seat in front of me, looking forward to my complementary dog biscuit, I might be mildly pissed off to be told by a couple of paramilitary flight attendants that my presence was no longer welcome, and then to be dragged out bleeding by a SWAT team from the airport security force.
And if I was a doctor, I might wonder at the gall of an airline that would be quite happy to call out on the intercom “is there a doctor on the plane?” and expect me to revive a passenger in trouble, yet equally happy to haul me out of my seat as if I was a terrorist, or a drunk on a stag trip.
Perhaps I should give United the benefit of the doubt, and ascribe their PR fiasco to rank incompetence, or lack of staff training.
In which case, for his own incompetence, his warped sense of what it means to go above and beyond, and his unerring ability to keep digging once he fell into a hole, Mr Munoz should be rewarded with the supreme accolade for such qualities: a place in Donald Trump’s White House.