Barely 48 hours after United Airlines employees created a national scandal by dragging a doctor violently from his seat, America’s newly controversial airline posted a job listing for a public-relations manager on District Daybook, the “premier resource for political and policy professionals in Washington D.C.”
The company is seeking someone with “the courage, the creativity, the conviction, the agility, the leadership, and most importantly the passion to help United reclaim its reputation as one of the world’s great and resilient companies, we hope you’ll consider embarking on this journey with us,” according to the listing.
“On all major performance metrics—delays, cancellations, mishandled bags, and bumped passengers—United has, since 2012, been reliably the worst or near worst among its competitors.”
United is suffering from severe public-relations fallout following the online publication of videos that showed United employees forcibly removing a bloodied and dazed passenger from an overbooked aircraft. The passenger was reportedly a doctor whose offense was refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight.
But while the incident is certainly a PR crisis, it is but a small part of the waking PR nightmare with which United has been dealing over the past few years. There is an entire blog dedicated to United Airlines horror stories, the address of which is screwedbyunited.blogspot.com. There is also a “United Airlines Horror Stories and Complaints” Facebook page.
In January United hired former Starbucks corporate communications executive Jim Olson, who helmed the coffee chain’s PR efforts during some of its most controversial, customer-alienating days.
The hire was announced barely a week following the publication of a Bloomberg article titled “United’s Quest to Be Less Awful.” The profile of United’s woes was brutal. “Every airline has its horror stories, of course — air travel is full of opportunities for customer disenchantment. But United has proved an industry leader,” Bloomberg reported at the time.
“On all major performance metrics—delays, cancellations, mishandled bags, and bumped passengers—United has, since 2012, been reliably the worst or near worst among its competitors. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, United was responsible for 43 percent of all consumer complaints filed against U.S. airlines,” reported Bloomberg.
“It finished last among North American non-discount airlines in the 2015 J.D. Power & Associates customer-satisfaction survey. Recently the carrier agreed to pay $2.8 million in fines for tarmac delays and the poor treatment of disabled passengers,” the report continued.
It doesn’t appear United’s quest to be less awful, or at the very least to be less known for being awful, is going too well at the moment. At the time of publication, the satirical “#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos” is trending on Twitter, while three of the BBC’s top-ten most-read stories are about the United scandal.