United’s attempt to get rid of bad rep backfires
United Airlines is getting tired of its long-lasting PR crisis or so it seems, as the latest moves they are making are all about reputation. The senior leadership changes and the manner of introducing Basic Economy tickets show the attempts to wash off the black stains left by the David Dao scandal, but trouble seems to be chasing after the airline, as new problems emerge.
The increasing emphasis of the PR department can be illustrated with the latest shift in the corporate structure of the company. United has announced on July 15 the expanded roles for three members of the executive leadership team, naming Brett Hart as Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel. In addition to leading the company's legal, corporate real estate, corporate security, community, and government and regulatory affairs teams, he will now oversee global communications. Hart was previously Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Senior VP of Corporate Communications Jim Olson will now report to Hart.
United has also shown interest in rebuilding reputation when introducing Basic Economy tickets. Tired of customer service disasters, the airline took time to communicate and warn customers that cheap tickets come at a price not everyone would be willing to pay. United installed a pop-up window on its website, so the customers can see a list of Basic Economy features, and have to agree to the terms prior to purchasing the ticket. Just in case they miss these explanations, a series of emails is sent to remind that the bought ticket is Basic Economy and they have 24 hours to get a refund. This helped to minimize the discontent, while some customers still took to Twitter to complain about the limitations the new class entails.
In this case it is disputable, whether the airline could have done something more or is it the customers who should pay more attention when buying the tickets. However, another customer-mistreating scandal found the airline on its own.
United Airlines is being sued by an elderly customer, who was pushed to the ground by the airline’s employee and was left there to lie. A harrowing video, filmed in 2015 when the incident happened, is circulating in the media, showing the encounter, burying United’s hopes to wake up from the surreal PR nightmare.