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United Airlines #flight3411 case study: 7 lessons in crisis communications

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United Airlines dragged off a passenger from flight 3411. Amidst a social media storm, the airline's stock price dipped over a billion dollars before the CEO issued a proper apology. He promised to do something about it by April 30. What should United Airlines do now? And what can airlines do to prevent this crisis from happening in the future?

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United Airlines #flight3411 case study: 7 lessons in crisis communications

  1. 1. SHOULD DO NOW? WHAT ANATOMY OF A CRISIS: FLIGHT 3411 (PLUS: 7 TIPS FOR ANY AIRLINE FACING A CRISIS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA)
  2. 2. HAVING THE LEGAL RIGHT TO DO SOMETHING DOESN’T MEAN IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. “ Shashank Nigam
  3. 3. THE ANATOMY OF A CRISIS How the events unfolded in the aftermath of United flight 3411 9 Apr: 10 Apr: 11 Apr: • Dr. Dao is violently offloaded from US 3411. • Video of the incident goes viral. • United CEO issues first statement, which fuels anger. • Internal email from the CEO backing actions gets leaked. • Internet full of sarcastic memes on United. • United stock price plunges by almost a billion dollars. • United CEO issues third statement, a full apology and promises to issue results of review by April 30, 2017.
  4. 4. “ The first statement only added fuel to the fire. Source: Justin Wolfers
  5. 5. “ United brand takes a battering on social media Source: BrandWatch
  6. 6. An internal staff email from the CEO is leaked to the press, further fueling anger. Source: BrandWatch Source: Jon Ostrower
  7. 7. “ We ban staff from traveling on United.
  8. 8. The internet quickly fills up with #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos and various other sarcastic memes. Source: Maxsim Mao
  9. 9. United’s stock price dips by over a billion dollars. Source: Fortune
  10. 10. WE TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY AND WE WILL MAKE IT RIGHT. “ ”Oscar Munoz Source: United
  11. 11. SHOULD DO BY WHAT (PLUS: 7 TIPS FOR ANY AIRLINE FACING A CRISIS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA) APRIL 30?
  12. 12. 1 BE HUMAN Why issue a press release when the passenger impacted is being treated in a Chicago hospital. CEO Oscar Munoz should visit him, hug him and apologize in person. Not issue statements.
  13. 13. 2 INTRODUCE A BILL OF RIGHTS The Bill of Rights should state clearly the lengths you would go to, in order to take care of the customers. Just like jetBlue!
  14. 14. 3 GET RID OF VOUCHERS Passengers don’t trust vouchers. They come with too many conditions attached. We know overbooking is very profitable, so why not give cash instead? Or send them on another airline? Nobody wants to fly you again when you’ve already disrupted them once!
  15. 15. 4 THINK LONG TERM United will need to think beyond one-off measures like issuing refunds of passengers on board flight 3411. Changes introduced should ensure situations like these do not repeat.
  16. 16. 5 TRAIN YOUR STAFF Sign up your airport staff to be trained at Disney. Send your call center staff to Zappos. Train your social media team to be personal. Please get them all better trained.
  17. 17. 6 EMPOWER YOUR STAFF All customer facing staff should be able to use their common sense in special circumstances to take decisions. They shouldn’t be tied down by overbearing procedures.
  18. 18. 7 SHOW COMPASSION While airlines transport people from A to B at the lowest cost and maximize revenue, they are not in the supply chain business. People have feelings. Just be nice!
  19. 19. We hope none of us face what United’s passengers had to go through. For more airline crisis management resources, please visit: http://bit.ly/AirlineCrisis

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