As I write this regarding the incident on United Express 3411, I want to make it clear that the actual removal of the passenger, is not the direct action of United. I’m also not a CEO of an airliner, nor do I hold a position where I have to move staff all around America and beyond.
However, at the end of the day, I hope we can all take a step back and honestly consider what chasing a lower operating cost has done to each customer on that flight and the brand.
The moment that a passenger walks past that gate, they are now using your service. They are given their seat number, store their carry-on luggage, and get comfortable for their journey. You as a service provider now owe that person the service and at some level have entered into a service agreement with your passenger.
We as the ever watchful collective understand that things happen. Sometimes people may be requested to leave the flight to meet operational requirements. Many of us would do so. Some of us cannot. Something the corporation does not seem to understand from the top down.
How did I and many others come to the conclusion? Well for one, instead of trying to source out alternative means to move staff around, your company instead loads the plane to its capacity and then ejects those extra customers to make room for your employees.
Take a step back and imagine you’re in a restaurant. You’re sitting at the table. Your family is seated and drinks are ordered. You’re then told that you need to leave your table to make room for servers that are not on shift to eat a meal. Would you not be frustrated?
Your company collectively has disconnected from their customers and by approving the message that you were “re-accommodating” passengers followed by describing a man being told by air authority to leave for staff to take his seat as belligerent only validates the point.
If we say the average wage of the employees being shipped across was $20.00 USD per hour. A “premium” SUV from Enterprise is $240.00 USD taxes in. Combining the wage of the 4 people, and a driver your total expense would be $364.75 before gas for the, give or take, 4-hour drive.
But let’s be real, driving is much slower than flying and to take 5 employees off to make that trip is aggressive. So let’s think limo and make your employees feel a little special. A quick search for a quote shows a cost of $960 for a limo to take them to their destination if we factor in the return trip into the bill.
United stock took a $250 million USD hit today as a result of putting your customers on a second class shelf. If you looked at that in the form of pizzas you could have purchased 19 million pepperoni pizzas.
By putting your employees first you made what could have been a quick alternative route of transit become what will be fabled as one of the great PR disasters taught in marketing classes and a benchmark for the future.