United Airlines Bad PR

United Airlines’ recent actions have created a social media uproar.  In mid-April, a man was forcefully removed from a United Airlines by the police.  The flight was overbooked and no one would volunteer to give up their seat.  The airline had a lottery and a man was chosen to be removed from the flight.  This man refused to leave the plan and the police were called.  They proceeded to drag this man off of the flight against his will.

The ethical principles that apply to this are; Judeo Christian Persons as Ends, Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Islam’s Divine Command. I believe that Judeo Christian and Islam’s Divine Command conflict with parts of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

According to Kan’t Categorical Imperative, United Airlines has a duty to their organization to make sure that the flights have the correct number of people on them.  When they removed the man from the flight they were acting in regards to that duty.  However, the way they acted was in violation of Islam’s Divine Command and the Judeo Christian Persons as Ends.

Islam’s Divine Command emphasizes respecting human dignity and forcefully dragging a man off of the flight was in no way respects his dignity. Judeo Christian Persons as Ends emphasizes treating others the way you would want to be treated and loving others like God loves you.  United Airlines did not treat this man with the respect he deserves and did not act in a way that shows the love God has for us.

I do believe that the idea of having people taken off the flight so everyone fit in the plane was right, I do not think that United Airlines’ actions were right or can be justified.  They acted in an unprofessional way.  I think they can improve on the way they treat people, making sure they do not overbook flights when people buy tickets and make sure they are respectful when asking people to get off the airplane.

This tweet from United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz is a perfect example of what other companies can take from this situation. Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.05.08 AM

Other companies should read this and learn that they do not want to take any actions that would require an apology for being unprofessional.  They should strive to maintain the highest degree of professionalism.  Coming from a public relations standpoint, companies need to think about how their actions come across to customers and how one lapse of judgment can destroy their reputation, sometimes (like United Airlines) actions can destroy reputation to the point that it will be next to impossible to repair their image.

It is important for companies to maintain good relationships with the media and their clients.  The way United Airlines acted shows other companies how to not act if they want to maintain that good relationship.  PR professionals can only do so much for their companies and it is up to the company itself to not make the PR professionals’ job impossible to do.


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