Wednesday 12 April 2017

United Airlines’ price of re-accommodation: How not to treat thy customers

A story that continues to gain attention amidst global news such as geopolitical confrontations of Syria & North Korea, is an everyday incident handled so poorly by United Airlines. On Sunday, an Asian-American doctor was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle and off the plane, since he refused to leave the seat that he paid for. The videos taken by several passengers went viral and soon the tweet roasts by public started trending worldwide.

In summary, the airline had overbooked the flight - a common practice that’s usually resolved by finding volunteers to change flights and or using measures like offering travel vouchers. Since there were no volunteers, the man together with few passengers were selected randomly. And his refusal to comply was met with brutal force. On Tuesday, United issued an apology for having to “re-accommodate” those passengers which was met with severe criticism and fueled anger from public.

People had different reactions to the situation. while some labelled this as PR issue and others as poor customer service, serveral citizens started a boycott movement addressing the discrimination against the Asian origin. The shares came tumbling down and United Airlines lost about $950 million in market value in a day.
From ethical point of view, many regard this incident as a toxic combination of capitalism and corporate culture leading to a customer being dragged along the floor. The CEO’s choice of words in the apology not only proclaims this view but also shows the lack of empathy while handling sentiments of the customers.

Airlines are not charities and they are here to make money. While all of us understand that, the anger of public seems to stem out of deeper issue than customer service or bad PR. It’s the morality of the Airline while conducting the business. The goal of overbooking is not to reduce the price of tickets but to maximize the profits by increasing the volume. A strategy which clearly put the profit in center and not the customer.
While spectators yelled “That’s not right”, no staff seems to be paying attention to that feeling. The feeling of unjust laws of corporation overriding on human’s dignity. The flight crew kept silent, probably watching the incident in horror. But they did not react, which shows the toxicity of corporate culture. When the leaders feel, it is okay make unjust rules to their favor, employees are conditioned by those unjust laws as well.
Customers are not always right, but it is important to see their point of view. Even if it is not in accordance to the Business. Because that’s where the true sentiment of the customer lies. Why one chooses a brand over another sprout from that place. And I think it is a good place to start re-accommodating your business.

   Srivatsan Aravamudan
   Telephone:+65 62689551
   Fax:+65 62689858
   Business Analyst - Snr Software Consultant.


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