What United Airlines Should Have Done Immediately

Issue #144

View in your browser

Logo for The Conversation Source

Screen shot: Jimmy Kimmel does a United Airlines prank TV AD.  Watch below.


This past week Pepsi was probably the happiest company on Earth as United Airlines stole the spotlight from what was a massive marketing failure by Pepsi (remember the fake protest ad?).

Smartphones have given every single customer the power to document, in real time, exactly how they and others are being treated by any company.  It is surprising that companies haven’t received the message that THEY DO NOT CONTROL THE NARRATIVE any longer.

Press releases, etc… DO NOT WORK.  They haven’t worked in about 15 years.


Unless you were on an island without any media at all, you know that a passenger was forced to leave a UAL flight by Airport police officers acting on the request of airline employees.   

The result was a horrific video showing an elderly man being dragged off a flight against his will.

What United Did:

The CEO posted a response that immediately went viral in the worst possible way.   He used the term of art “re-accommodate” to refer to act of dragging the passenger off the plane pulled by his arms. 

This further pissed people off.

What United should have done: 

1)  Apologize and then shut up.   

The video(s) were out there.    The damage had been done.    There was no UN seeing an elderly man being dragged off an airplane for no other reason than the airline had made a crew scheduling error.   


2)  Change operating procedures immediately: 

Make changes immediately to operating procedures to ensure something like this never happens again. 

According to press reports, they have done so.

The bottom line is that United Airlines (and most US Airlines) have very little goodwill. A company that was beloved by their customers may have had more time to react and more people standing up for it.   As it is, most Americans hate airlines.

Articles I’m sharing with you this week include:

  • United Apologies.  A timeline.
  • How United and Pepsi’s problems are forcing brands to respect social media.
  • The truth that little will change with so much power concentrated in the hands of so few airlines (there are now only four majors left in the USA).
  • Jimmy Kimmel’s brutal fake United ad.


  1. Hootsuite’s social media crisis management plan.  Hootsuite is one of my favorite social media tools.
  2. Jay Baer on how to deal with a social media crisis.   


Thank you,

Shaun Dakin – Dakin Associates

What I’m Reading


Like this newsletter?  Feel free to forward it to friends and family!


Collect and curate content easily for brilliant newsletters. Try Goodbits for free!