Can United Airlines Fly Away from a PR Crisis?

United Airlines has started 2017 by going viral. Last month, the company went viral for not allowing a woman to board the plan in yoga pants. But, earlier this week United Airlines made headlines after a video went viral.

It all started after a nearly 70-year-old doctor was chosen at random to be removed off of a United Airlines flight because the flight was overbooked. But the passenger was later physically dragged off of the company’s airlines after refusing to get off of the plane. A fellow passenger captured the whole ordeal and shared it on Twitter. Moments later United Airlines started trending on social media. The video was so disturbing a Chicago Aviation Police Department officer was placed on administrative the leave. Also, the federal government also got involved.

In the middle of this PR crisis, the CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz praised his employees for following “establish procedures for dealing with situations like this,” which later sparked airline customers to threaten to boycott the company. As a result, on Tuesday, United Airlines CEO finally apologize for what took place on Flight 3411.

United Airlines apology

HONG KONG – NOVEMBER 03, 2015: check-in area in Hong Kong Airport. Hong Kong International Airport is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok (Sorbis /

“The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment,” Munoz wrote in a statement. “I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened… No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

“It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again,” Munoz continued.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street United Airlines value as a company drop more than $750 million in the past 24 hours. 

But it begs the question – why do airlines overbook anyway?

The Wired reports airlines traditionally benefit from overbooking a plane flight. For example, not everyone shows up for the flight. Different things can happen such as hangovers, delayed flights, and late connecting flights. Ultimately, it is in the airlines best interest to maximize revenue and to calculate the percentage of people who will miss their flight.