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United PR Nightmare

A doctor was forcibly removed from a United flight for not giving up the seat that he paid for. And everything went wrong from there.

A man’s refusal to give up his seat on an overbooked United Airlines flight led to a disturbing scene Sunday that has travelers up in arms over airline policies.

The Department of Transportation said it will review the incident, in which a passenger was forcibly removed from the Louisville, Kentucky-bound United flight 3411 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The incident has prompted one security officer’s suspension and created a publicity nightmare for United.

Several passengers recorded the incident on their phones and posted video on social media showing three Chicago Department of Aviation security officers dragging the man, who has not been identified, down the aisle by the arms and legs while other passengers shout in protest. He continued to resist after he was removed and ran back onto the airplane, face bloodied from the encounter.

We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.
Audra D. Bridges

Twitter Explodes with the hashtag: #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos

Rupert Younger, a PR expert and director of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, said that Munoz’s response was a major disappointment, and that United should have moved much more quickly to limit damage from the video.

“The apology by the CEO was, at best, lukewarm or, at worst, trying to dismiss the incident,” said Younger. “The CEO should make a better, more heartfelt, more meaningful and more personal apology.”

Younger said that United should also address public concerns over industry policies related to bumping passengers from their flights.

The United response “looks uncaring and it looks like it’s effectively trying to apologize for the incident without really addressing the core issue of how they deal with customers,” said Younger, co-founder of the PR firm Finsbury.

Chinese Outraged over the incident.

Outrage over the controversial incident soon spread to the Chinese internet, where thousands of shocked and angry netizens took to China’s top micro-blogging site Sina Weibo to express their anger with the US airline.

The story tagged “United Airlines forcibly removes passenger from airplane” also shot to the top of the site’s trending charts, and was read more than 95.5m times.

“I understand that the airline’s reason was that it oversold seats. So they were open to taking people’s money easily and bullying someone, who really needed to be somewhere, when it was of no fault of his own?” wrote Weibo user madanamada in a lengthy blog post that drew more than 550 likes from netizens.

“Look at the way they manhandled the poor Chinese man. He doesn’t look young either. It must have been downright humiliating to have been dragged off in full view of everyone, kicking and screaming.”

Another user said: “Active racial profiling clearly took place here. And America wonders why people attack it for not having respect for social movements?”

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