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THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Can United Airlines Get Any Worse?

As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours. And for plagued United Airlines it seems the rain may never stop. In some ways United may be experiencing something similar to what Carnival Cruise Lines did not so long ago, and to be sure its reputation will be tarnished for some time to come. Moreover, as the punches keep on coming, this whole string of incidents from beaten down passengers, to dead rabbits and scorpion bites—United Airlines may be an airline company that crashes without a single plane in the air when all is said and done.

You'll remember quite a few years back when PanAm was driven out of business after a series of deadly crashes that made it the butt of more than a few jokes, and left passengers weary to fly the ill-fated airline for fear they might not make it to their destination alive.

It's not just that passengers are bailing on United in droves. The investors are too, and for good reason on both counts.

Perhaps it is nothing that United Airlines is specifically doing wrong that has caused this string of bad press for them. They could well be simply a victim of circumstance. The Dr. David Dao incident just happened to thrust them smack dab into the spotlight. Of course, I do think there are some serious tears in the fabric of their entire operation, and this has led to much of their woes of late. But really, looking at the bigger picture, it might well be that the entire airline industry faces similar problems. We're just not as acutely aware of them since right now United is deeply embedded in bad press to take some of the heat and pressure off of the other airlines.

As one would expect, some of United's competitors are already taking advantage of United's missteps and misfortunes. For example, Southwest Airlines recently announced it would end the age-old practice of overbooking flights. As things tend to go in business, it's sort of a game of copycat if the idea sits well with customers, and it would  not be surprising to see other airlines quickly scrambling to follow suit. All of the airlines are already doing anything they can, of course, to scoop up any foot traffic they can grab from passengers abandoning United.

At this point it seems apparent that apologies from United's CEO, Oscar Munoz, are most definitely going to fall on deaf ears. What that means to me is that the only next step for Oscar Munoz to take is to step down from his top post and leave the clean up of this whole mess to someone else.

Does it mean someone else can fix it? Maybe. Maybe not. Toyota seemed well poised for a rather precarious situation after their Camry's accelerator problem left terrified drivers essentially in the back seat of their own cars while they were helplessly driven into walls, barriers, and other cars on the road. The stock did take a tumble, and certainly Toyota said very openly they made some mistakes, and the stock did recover, and so did the reputation of Camry cars. Carnival has been able to clean up its image a bit as well over time, and the cruise line is actually doing quite well again.

If there is any certainty for United Airlines, it is that it cannot afford an ounce of additional bad press. In fact, one more story of something happening on a United Airlines plane may serve as the final coffin nail.

The whole Twitter, Wendy's, Wilkerson "debacle" is not that story by the way.

At the very least what United Airlines needs is a major overhaul of its business. They need to either fire Munoz, or he needs to step down. That is step one. In addition, a new CEO needs to assure passengers that major changes will be made to the way they book flights, the way they get staff moved around, the way they handle cargo (especially live animals), and what they intend to do to sweep planes better—to keep scorpions from appearing out of the sleeves of sleeping passengers as happened on one recent flight, and passengers actually being stung which happened on yet another flight.

It still may not be enough to quell the looming disaster that is becoming their company. Unlike other businesses, airlines customers are quite a bit more perturbed than they are in other industries. The entire experience of flying has become such an abysmal and irritating experience, by the time passengers are sat in their seats, they are poised like hungry lions waiting for just the right moment and opportunity to strike. In fact, on a recent Southwest flight two passengers took to literal blows after who knows what transpired before the incident.

What that means is that customers are going to be far less forgiving when it comes to United as a whole. Flyers are fed up. And telling United where to go despite any efforts United may try to make to set things straight may be a very strong message to the airlines left standing...

You better get things right and treat flyers like customers, or we will ground your planes next.

Even if United Airlines makes it through the fall-out, their opportunity to have a second chance will require an awful careful approach to every single interaction it has with their customers. Because if they don't, they won't get a third chance.

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