As 2017’s terrible, no good, very bad headlines continue to unfurl, so too does my look back at some of year’s worst PR disasters and the lessons that can be gleaned from the mishandlings of others. And speaking of mishandling, our case today is one that started with, quite literally, that, by United Airlines.
The whole catastrophe began in early April, coincidentally right as competing airline Delta coming out of its own crisis following a snowballing series of bungled operations that left many passengers and at least one corpse stranded on tarmacs. In an incident that perhaps had Delta’s C-suite breathing a sigh of relief, a video shot with a mobile device on a still-boarding United flight revealed one unlucky, randomly-chosen ticket-holder getting violently dragged off of the aircraft by airport security. As the saying goes, if it bleeds it leads, and in little time, the clip was viewed millions of times all over the world.
That’s bad enough. But United managed to make it worse, giving a woefully inadequate response and earning their reputation its own dragging, this one through the mud.