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Mis-Communicator of the Week: United Airlines

12th April 2017


There can only be one winner of this week’s award. In a flurry of missteps to deflate a growing global crisis after a passenger was dragged off one of their planes, this letter to employees epitomises what has been wrong with their approach. 

The original letter is below, accompanied by a rough translation of what the United CEO, Oscar Munoz, was trying to achieve with it, and is just one of many reasons why United Airlines are my Mis-Communicator of the Week. 

Dear Team

I’m everyone’s mate but we are press releasing this aren’t we?
 

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.

It is probably more upsetting for our customers but I’m also upset that the reputation of our company (and my share options) is under threat
 

While the facts and circumstances are still evolving

Ignore the videos circulating on social media in this era of fake news I will tell you what actually happened
 

especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did

I’ll try and pass the blame here. Plus, it may have looked like he was bleeding but the lights were dimmed as is standard operating procedure on a flight at this time
 

to give you a clearer picture of what transpired

let me patronise you and/or willfully attempt to mislead you while avoiding making an apology as I should
 

I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

This may seem lacking in any humanity but the lawyers wrote this bit
 

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.

Everyone note: We are sharing the blame on this one. We were polite. Polite I tell you.
 

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.

The lawyers wrote this bit too in an attempt to make us look safety conscious and play to various fears people have of flying in today’s day and age
 

While I deeply regret this situation arose

I know this is worse than the time we were found to be smashing up guitars but let’s be clear: This is not an apology and I’m not saying sorry…yet
 

I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

This is pretty much meaningless corporate bullshit and totally untrue based on the evidence circulating around the world but I needed to bridge to my signoff and spin this out to two pages.
 

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident.

I don’t want to say anything further and to avoid that let’s give the impression we’ll have an investigation or change how we treat our customers but actually try and do nothing at all.
 

Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are

Does this sound caring enough? The fundamental point is: we’ll drag a 69 year old off one of our planes just so one of you can hitch a lift
 

and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

I really do not want to resign even though that would be the right thing to do.
 

Oscar
Foxtrot Oscar

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.



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