United Airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL), is in a public relations crises mode after videos showing a bleeding passenger being dragged off an airplane went viral. Consumers threatened with boycotts and lawmakers called for an investigation. The incident, besides being a pathetic display of corporate negligence, was also poorly handled by the airline’s representatives.
On Tuesday, United Continental Holdings stock closed 1.1% lower, a decrease of $255 million off its market capitalization. At first, the reason for the passenger’s removal seemed to be an overbooked flight. Later Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, explained that the flight was full but not overbooked. Crew members, who were scheduled to be on a flight Monday morning from Louisville to Newark, N.J., needed the four seats. McCarthy said that if the crew members wouldn’t have been on that flight the Monday flight would have been canceled.
The passenger, Dr. David Dao, refused to leave the flight after three other passengers agreed to do so. McCarthy insisted that protocol was followed on Dr. Dao’s flight, the New York Times reported.
Politicians spoke on the issue. Chris Christie in an interview that “Everybody who flies commercial knows United is awful… “I don’t think they’ve ever really recovered from the merger between United and Continental, and I don’t think they’ve integrated employees. I don’t think they’ve set a culture there, and you’ve got a CEO who takes off after the guy was dragged down the aisle,” he said. United is a prominent company Governor Christie’s state of New Jersey, where 70% of flights at Newark International Airport are by United Airlines.
The company’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, said in a statement “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”