Story of a Fiasco: the United flight 3411

Story of a Fiasco: the United flight 3411

The "involuntary de-boarding video" showing a passenger removed from an aircraft has gone viral: that's a huge damage for world's third-largest airline and for the aviation industry

by Nicola Zamperini

"I’m a pilot, I don’t need communication skills", I heard once from an experienced pilot. It is not difficult to understand what type of process can generate a similar sentence. "I fly to make the difference for life and destiny of some people, sometimes hundreds of people, and I need to stay focused. This is my job. That’s not about communication".

Such a sentence could not be more wrong, such a behavior could not be more baseless and dangerous.

Such an unmotivated attitude is especially wrong regarding any company involved in aerial work: from a small helicopter doing point to point passenger transport to a Major like United Airlines is.

If you’re involved in public transport and you’re hoping not to ever deal with communication crisis situations, it will come the day - and that day ever comes once - that communication issues will be knocking at your door.

The “involuntary de-boarding situation” which was captured on video, which surfaced Monday, showing a passenger removed on Sunday from United flight 3411 at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, has gone viral.

In the video: United Airlines Passenger Forcibly Removed on Overbooked Flight

The entire situation and overbooking policies stuff gone viral too.

And that’s a huge reputation damage for the world's third-largest airline, that’s a huge damage for the aviation industry too. It will take months to figure out how much it will weigh on United Airlines accounts: after a mea culpa from the CEO, the stock had recovered from the worst losses registered in the wake of the incident - but its market value was still off by $250 million.

United Airlines gave a poor response, giving off a simple press release while facing a situation of sudden crisis. The Major was not prepared, it underestimated the potential reach of a video that went viral around the world within hours. United had no flexibility and intelligence to understand how it was right to answer.

In communication jargon they call it crisis situation "Cobra", because it act like the sudden bite of that infamous lethal snake. There is the "Python" situation, too: that’s about the issues that slowly grind a company’s force of communication projection. A good instance of “Python” situation could be analyzed in the CHC Helikopter Service Flight 241 case: just think about of the hardships the press officers endured during and after the crash in Norway of a Super Puma helicopter which in April 2016 claimed the life of 13 people. They did the right thing: they keep on the level of communication, they did not stop the flow and ensured a good amount of trusted and sourced informations.

There are 7 main stages of a communication crisis situation, as outlined by Mitroff and Pauchant: they go from an alarm-fear-terror continuum. United Airlines seem to be not aware of M&P works. Or United simply did not put into practice any of their advices.

They seem to have forgotten that you just have to adopt a list of procedures in the wake of a communication crisis.

That’s a communication checklist.

It’s just similar to the one checked by a captain before any takeoff. The presumption that it’s just enough doing it with planes or helicopters and not in the case of a video regarding your company, is a presumption that leads to worst mistakes.

Do not forget: your face could be in that viral video.

The Passenger dragged off flight and bloodied could be you.

That’s the wrongest and one of the most expensive way of reducing your brand awareness