Let's just get this out up front: United Airlines has some issues (and this is just one Google News link).
2017 has not been a kind year to the airline with public relations, and the statements put out by the airline have been tone-deaf, company-first, overloaded with legalese and double-speak. Third time's the charm, but it should not take three times for a CEO to get it right.
And of course, the media found a good story and started digging to find other bad stories on the airlines (CEO bumps passengers to go home is a good one) and started digging into the identity of the passenger (the first story seems too close to a standard crisis tactic - change the story, attack the victim - and the story has been heavily edited since it was first posted).
For all the bad aviation news, a #TBT to one of the few times I had a good experience on American Airlines.... 😜A post shared by Jeremy Pepper (@jspepper) on
I was not going to write about the whole situation - it is boring and it is being beaten to death - but I did want to point out how great it is that everyone turns into an expert.
Have no experience in aviation public relations? No worries, you are a genius. Have no experience in crisis communications? No worries, you are a genius. Have no inside knowledge of the aviation industry at all? No worries, you are a genius. Have no knowledge of anything legal? No worries, you are a genius.
There are some simple truths in this story: the company has messed up, and it has created a great crisis that should have never happened. Another truth? Airlines are a business and have become so focused on that, customers feel like cattle and are not being treated well. Hence, my simple and easy American Airlines joke on Instagram, and yet still funny. The truth is always funny.
Another truth? Automation and technology has taken out the human element. It is up to the companies AND its employees to not be so stuck to the rules, that they are able to think about the human element. At the end of the day, the public relations crisis could be avoided by remembering that it is about the public, the human side, and not just media. That is a good way to avoid a social media crisis.