United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s mishandling of passenger incident: A case study in crisis management
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Organizations can be subjected to bad press easily in this age of global communication. Offending groups of stakeholders or consumers can have lasting and widespread consequences for a company. An organization may be linked to a CEO, public figure, or celebrity brand endorser. When consumers hear about the individual, they automatically make a connection with the brand or organization and vice versa. This is advantageous when the “face of the company” is viewed positively. But when controversy strikes, that association can have a detrimental effect on the company and send it into crisis management.
Find a spokesperson or leader of an organization who recently did or said something which reflected poorly on the entity. It may be a current news story or conduct internet searches for an incident (less than a year old).
You will write a 1-½ page report:
- Provide a brief background of the incident and how the company was affected in the news, social media, etc.
- Critique how the company reacted. This is your opinion as an affected party.
The report is written in 1st person.
One example of this is the incident involving the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, in 2017. In April of that year, a passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight, resulting in injuries to the passenger and widespread public outrage. A video of the incident, which was captured by other passengers, quickly went viral on social media, drawing widespread condemnation of the airline and its CEO, Oscar Munoz.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the company was heavily criticized in the news and on social media. Many people called for a boycott of United Airlines, and the company’s stock price dropped as a result. Many criticized Munoz’s initial response to the incident, in which he defended the airline’s actions and did not apologize. This was seen as an indication that Munoz and the company were not taking responsibility for the incident and were not showing empathy towards the passenger who was injured.
In my opinion, United Airlines’ initial response to the incident was inadequate and tone-deaf. Munoz’s initial statement did not take responsibility for the actions of the airline’s employees and did not show empathy towards the passenger who was injured. This only served to fuel the public’s anger and further damage the company’s reputation. It was not until several days after the incident, after the public outrage had reached a fever pitch, that Munoz issued a more full-throated apology and announced changes to the company’s passenger-removal policies. But it might be too late to repair the reputational damage that had been done. This incident should be a reminder to companies of the importance of quick and empathetic crisis management in the age of social media.