There’s a simple explanation why the United Airlines controversy has creeped into news headlines and gained worldwide discussion — everyone can relate. Seasoned travelers like us and those who travel once in a while have experienced some sort of incident that has clouded our view of air travel. Hopefully not to the extent of being dragged off a plain forcefully, but we know what it’s like when your travel plans go bonkers.
There’s a lot of should of, would of, could of’s — but what next? Boycott United? Knock yourself out and see how long that lasts. Eliminate overbooking? Not in the realm of possibility when airlines are making money from it and it’s unregulated. You and I know that the system is rigged against infrequent flyers, but the season travelers like us know the situation and how to avoid being bumped or how to profit from it.
The big question is what United does next. Here’s what I think.
— CEO Oscar Munoz needs to meet with Dr. David Dao in person. No PR people or lawyers with him. Just him and Dao. I can imagine Dao has already lawyered up and his ready for his seven-figure settlement, but Munoz should meet with him one on one. Express that what happened is his responsibility and the processes that he oversees didn’t work. Tell him that him and his wife can fly first class on United for a lifetime. More importantly, listen to Dr. Dao and see how he feels.
— Munoz needs to refund everybody on that flight and offer up a first class, round trip flight to them and their families for what they witnesses. Also, write up a letter that expresses his regret and sign it.
— Talk to everyone of his staff involved that day confidentially. Tell them that they won’t be fired, listen to the situation and assure them that the necessary steps will be taken. Happy employees equals happy passengers.
— Meet with airport security and Chicago police and calmly ask, “What the fuck were you thinking?”
— Create a detailed, no-BS statement on what happened, what should have been done, why it went wrong and the steps that will be taken for it to not happen again. Transparency is key.
— Understand why United is rated low in customer service compared to Alaska, JetBlue, Virgin, Etihad and Delta. Corporate culture comes from the top, just ask Richard Branson how he’s done with Virgin. Richard H. Anderson, the former CEO of Delta, reinvented the brand and can be credited for creating a sustainable culture of customer service.
— Here’s the big wish, give the public a discount on any flight to show that United cares about its customers. Either 10% or 20% off, anything to get people to book a flight and restore faith. There’s plenty evidence to show that people rather have a cheap flight with a shitty experience over paying a bit more for a great experience. Show that United has learned , can offer a great experience and that it has changed and is willing to take a hit financial to prove it. Chipolte gave out free burritos to restore customer confidence. I think United should do the same without cheap Mexican food.