United Airlines Customer Experience Nightmare (Bloomberg Businessweek)

United Airlines Customer Experience Nightmare

United Airlines customer experience made headlines less than a month ago when it barred two teenage girls from boarding one of its planes due to leggings that were deemed inappropriate. This week, United Airlines buried that story by creating an unimaginable customer experience nightmare for its passengers on United Express Flight 3411 from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when it had law enforcement pull Dr. David Dao from his seat causing him bodily harm. Passengers screamed, “This is wrong,” and “Oh my G-d, look at what you did to him,” while the bloodied doctor was dragged down the aisle.

Video of this barbaric act went viral bringing millions of viewers inside the cabin to hear the bloodcurdling screams of Dr. Dao again and again. The appalling incident was made worse when United Airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz sent a letter to his employees that praised the actions of the team and described Dr. Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.”

What triggered the United Airlines Customer Experience nightmare?

As the story reached a fever pitch, more video was revealed that showed Dr. Dao on his cell phone saying, “I won’t go. I’m a physician, I have to work tomorrow, eight o’clock.” A young child’s voice can be heard in the audio from nearby where the doctor was seated. As CEO Munoz scrambled to issue a more appropriate public apology, news of Dr. Dao’s injuries reveal he suffered a concussion, broken nose and knocked out teeth.

United Airlines Passenger Dragged from Flight
United Airlines passenger Dr. David Dao dragged from his seat. (Maxim)

Airport travel is often fraught with inconveniences from impassable security lines to flight delays and baggage loss. United Airlines customer experience nightmare took place after these hurdles were negotiated and the passenger had boarded the plane. The removal of a paying customer to make room for an employee seems unconscionable no matter what the business reason. A customer needs only to imagine himself in Dr. Dao’s shoes, having to get somewhere on time and trusting the airline to deliver him safely, when suddenly that trust is assailed. United Airlines will have to fight the headwind of this broken promise and rebuild trust and confidence in its brand. Rather than banning teenagers for wearing leggings and having the Chicago Police Department remove a paying customer from his seat, United Airlines should look to restore its old motto, “Fly the friendly skies,” lest it, along with its brand, be forgotten.