When it comes to examples of major customer service disasters and failure to treat clients with respect, I think you would be hard pressed to find a stronger one than the United Airlines debacle this week. Not only is the airline the subject of biting satire, internet memes and inevitable boycotts from the incident alone, but the response from United CEO, Oscar Munoz has been less than repentant at best, if not downright callous.
More compelling to me than United’s P.R. black eye (which is growing hourly and will undoubtedly swell to elephant-man proportions) in this situation, is a question that keeps plaguing me.
I am certain somewhere in the itty-bitty, teeny-weenie, microscopic fine-print of the terms and conditions NO one reads when they buy an airline ticket it specifies that the airline has the right to remove anyone from a plane for any reason whatsoever. So, I’m pretty sure they were within their legal authority to remove the passenger. The question everyone is asking (themselves, each other, the media, whoever will listen) is: legal or not, was it RIGHT? Could they not have handled it a different way – a better way? What set off the panic reflexes in the crew that caused them to call for airport security, and what should the security officers done differently? Equally important – how does this affect ME? I pay money for a plane ticket – I expect to be able to board the plane and be flown to my destination. Could I be randomly selected to be beaten and dragged off a plane on the whim of a flight attendant? There are thousands of potential answers to that line of questioning being bandied about on social media.
MY question is different. Maybe I am wired differently, I don’t know… (kindly don’t answer that)
My question is: was there not one person on that plane who would step up and volunteer in his stead? Rather than hollering at the security personnel and recording the whole thing on their cell phones, did it not occur to anyone to say, “Ya know what? This is getting out of hand. I’ll take your $800, hotel, meal and rebooking. Let the doctor go tend to his patients and let’s just end this thing before someone gets hurt.”
I am in NO way justifying the behavior of the United Airlines personnel or the security staff. Yet, the mob mentality that was so focused against them at that moment seemed to keep everyone in their seats, more obsessed with recording the incident than with resolving it. It would have only required one person to take Higher Ground, to step up and step off the plane – and the whole thing would have been resolved.