Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
United Airlines' market cap dropped nearly US$1 billion yesterday as the company was punished for a shocking assault on a passenger and the CEO's belligerent media statements.
We covered the incident and the problems with the first two official 'apologies' in a post yesterday.
In damage control mode, chief executive Oscar Munoz finally issued a third apology, and this time he got it right.
He named the outrage, showed he was serious and outlined what he would do to fix the problem.
But not before he'd shot himself in the foot by issuing an internal email to all staff which went back to his "blame the victim" script. It read, in part:
...while the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did... 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.
What seems to have made United see the light was the outrage from China over the perceived targeting of the Asian American passenger. The video has had more than 200,000 views in China and provoked more than 50,000 comments, along with calls for a boycott.
United has more than 20 per cent of the China-US passenger market and that's set to double in the next five years and will be a major driver of the airlines profitability: the key reason why the share price has taken a beating.