It’s safe to say that United Airlines has been walking a very fine line in the media due to it’s crippling public relation and customer service disasters. According to the Boston Globe, on March 12, 2018, a United Airlines flight attendant insisted that a passenger place her 10-month-old French Bulldog in the overhead compartment for the three-and-a-half hour flight from Houston to New York. At the conclusion of the flight, the passenger opened the overhead bin to find her puppy dead. This incident is heartbreaking and would’ve been appalling for any airline, but United Airlines’ current image makes the severity of this dead puppy so much worse.
The flight attendant’s adamant insistence that the passenger stow her bag containing the puppy in an overhead bin is a blatant violation of the Airline’s safety policies. In the wake of this disaster it has been reported that United Airlines has publicly apologized twice and discussed plans to have passengers flying with in-cabin pets attach brightly colored bag tags to the carriers to ensure that there is no confusion over the contents of the bag and how to proceed with storing it during the flight. United Airlines has not revealed any information on the flight attendant or his/her current status working at United. ABC News stated that the flight attendant claimed she did not know that there was a pet in the bag when she insisted that it be placed in the overhead compartment.
In January, the president of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, told the Chicago Business Journal, “We have to be a customer-centric airline.” But words without action are meaningless. United Airlines is completely correct in trying to focus on customer satisfaction, but forcibly removing passengers from an overbooked aircraft and pets perishing during a flight aren’t appealing to potential passengers.
What keeps United Airlines relevant and in business? It’s not because of their generous compensation to those that have been affected by the tragedies on United, or the fantastic service. It’s simply because there is a vicious cycle of consumers being enraged by an inhumane incident on United Airlines, swearing to boycott the airline and then not following through on their word. Society is outraged to hear when something terrible happens, but in a week it’s forgotten due to the cheap airfare and convenience of staying with what’s familiar. For United Airlines to understand the severity of their faulty customer service, consumers need to hit them where it hurts: the bank. Consumers say that they are outraged over United’s treatment of passengers, yet they fly on United again.
The lack of substantial response on the part of the consumers enables the poor treatment inflicted by United Airlines. Every instance, whether it’s a dead pet or a woman being forced to pee in a cup in front of flight attendants, is met with a weak apology and the phrase, “we are looking into it,” but nothing ever changes.
Unfortunately, I think it’s safe to say that no substantial change will come out of the inhumane death of the 10-month-old french bulldog. Based on the history of how United Airlines handles mistakes, the consumers’ outrage will pass after a few wishy-washy apologies from employees of United Airlines and all will be forgotten. This cycle and unfair treatment by United Airlines should not be condoned, but until society follows through on promises of a boycott, nothing will change.