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Thoughts on United Airlines (and American, too)

Recent events of airlines behaving badly may leave some fliers a bit concerned about whether they might experience unexpected conflict with flight crews. United Airlines and American Airlines executives and shareholders may be thinking about how to repair their companies' equity, brands, and so forth. Yet, they also should invest some effort in developing an effective response to affected customers and the broader flying public.

Here are some thoughts on the United event and some simple, actionable suggestions that airlines could consider (next time):

“The incident itself was the first problematic event. Each instance in the stream of public explanations and internal justifications only added more problems. Perhaps, would be most helpful for the CEO to speak directly, not through a communications director. The CEO's message needs to be very simple and clear: (1) acknowledge the problems (i.e., airplane incident, attempts to explain); (2) apologize for failures that created those problems; (3) commit to making sure that these kinds of problems will not happen again; and (4) pledge to earn back consumers' trust and confidence in United, an airline that has and will faithfully serve ALL of its passengers around the world.”

“United Airlines may experience a variety of setbacks, such as diminished consumer confidence, lost trust, dissatisfaction with the brand, and weaker Net Promoter Score. These issues may be linked not only to Chinese passengers but all passengers. Frequent fliers and people shopping for flights in the near future are going to see how United Airlines handles this. Will consumers recall a defensive explanation or a clear apology as the last thing United offered to the public?”

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