Airlines are having a really rough time right now, with a new PR disaster seeming to appear in the headlines on a daily basis. The world over is currently hyper-focused with the state of airlines in customer service, after the incident of the passenger being dragged off a flight. However, this is not even close to being the only PR nightmare airlines have faced as of late. From threatening to take customers kids to animal deaths, check out the list of the biggest PR nightmares ever faced by airlines.
The Dr. David Dao Fiasco
Arguably the most famous incident of horrible airline PR happened relatively recently on United Airlines. In April, a video depicting Dr. David Dao being dragged off a plane quickly began circulating online. Apparently, after the plane was overbooked the airline attempted to have several passengers depart.
Sixty-nine-year-old Dr. David Dao refused to disembark the plane saying that he had to get to his destination in order to get back to treat his patients. Officers forcibly removed Dao and ended up slamming his face into an armrest which caused horrifying injuries, including blood streaming from his mouth. Other passengers were completely freaked out with one saying, “Oh my god, look what you did to him!” However, this certainly wasn’t the end of it for United.
United Makes It Worst
United didn’t have the best response to such a horrifying incident. If anything, they made it worse with what many felt was a completely out of touch response. United CEO Oscar Munoz called the incident “upsetting.” He also said that he apologized for having to “re-accommodate” the passengers. However, an internal email also leaked which faulted Dao for being “combative”.
Thanks to the age of camera phones footage shot of the incident told a different story. Of course, Munoz’ response was met with a million memes that quickly sprung up on the internet. Everything from Rocky as a United Passenger to Negan from the Walking Dead as a flight attendant mocked the now disgraced airline.
Time for Damage Control
United CEO Oscar Munoz later appeared on ABC News to make a public amends (probably in response to the plummeting stock of United). He said he was “ashamed” of the way the whole thing went down. He later vowed, “That is not who our family at United is. You saw us at a bad moment. This can never, will never happen again on a United Airlines flight … that’s my promise.”
While it was actually a Chicago Department of Aviation officer that removed Dao and not technically a United employee, the entire fiasco certainly didn’t sit well with the public. The arresting officer was later put on leave.
As many people knew right from the start, Dr. David Dao was definitely going to walk away from this incident a richer man. The poor guy ended up with some relatively serious injuries. He had a serious concussion, a broken nose which will require reconstructive surgery, and had two front teeth knocked out.
United quickly reached a “settlement” with Dao which is rumored to be in the millions. However much Dao received it was obviously enough for him and the rest of his family to now remain quiet about the matter which is probably a very happy turn of events for the airline.
Senators Question Airline Policy
After the Dr. David Dao fiasco multiple democratic Senators, including Senator Al Franken and Senator Amy Klobuchar, called into question the airline’s policy of overbooking seats on flights. Klobuchar happens to be a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security requested that they look into the airlines “passenger protections”.
Senator Al Franken joined in Klobuchar’s sentiments (whom also happens to be from Minnesota). Other senators also joined the duo in calling out the extreme profits the airlines make and whether they are actually implementing practices that are in the best interest of the customer.
United Cancels after Filming
United Airlines has certainly been having a horrifying time with public relations as of late. It seems like it’s just one disaster after another. A man named Navang Oza recently went viral with his horrible United experience. Navang had begun filming his encounter with a ticket agent after he said the lady was being rude to him. He had inquired as to why his oversize carry-on luggage fee was double what it had been on the flight over.
After the United employee saw him recording she canceled his flight and called the police on him, because he “didn’t have permission” to record. The police later came and told the man he could indeed film whatever he wanted as he was in a public area. United has since apologized to the man and we’re guessing there were probably less than desirable consequences for the United employee as well.
United Sends French Woman to Wrong Place
2017 is definitely not United Airline’s year. As if the Dr. David Dao incident was not enough the airline again just received bad press after accidentally sending a non- English speaking woman to the wrong place. French citizen Lucie Bahetoukilae aimed to travel from Newark, N.J., to Paris. However, the poor woman got the surprise of her life when she ended up in San Francisco instead.
Bahetoukilae only speaks French and ended up on the wrong plane after United decided to change the gate at the last minute. Unfortunately, they didn’t announce the change in various languages so Bahetoukilae boarded the wrong plane.
While on the plane a flight attendant apparently even checked her ticket and lead her to an empty seat. She ended up in San Francisco where she had to wait for eleven hours before she was able to finally make her way home to Paris. She apparently spent over twenty-eight hours trying to get home, which must have been particularly terrifying when you don’t even speak the language!
United issued a public apology for the woman’s debacle and refunded her ticket, but let’s hope they offered her more perks than that. said they are working to ensure “it never happens again”. It certainly sounds like things like this happen every day for this airline!
Competing for “Worst” Place
It almost seems like airlines are competing in the “worst customer service of all time” awards. Up next, is Delta airlines. In April of 2017, Brian and Brittany Schear were flying to Hawaii from Los Angeles, California. The couple was also traveling with their two young children. What was to be a happy family trip quickly turned into a nightmare scenario.
The family originally also had their eighteen-year-old son traveling with them. However, since he couldn’t go on the trip, they had wanted to keep the seat because they had the two younger children with them. If you have ever traveled with kids, you know it’s always nice to have the extra space! What happened next is the stuff of parent’s nightmares!
“You’re Going To Lose Your Kids”
Delta argued with Brian that the seat had to be occupied by the person who was assigned the specific seat. The family was subsequently asked to give up their seats. After Brian questioned the whole situation, they were threatened with having their children taken away and ending up in jail if they did not follow orders. Can you imagine being threatened to have your children taken away because of an airplane seat?! Ridiculous!
Again, thankfully for camera phones, everything was caught on camera and quickly went viral. Later, Delta apologized for the situation. However, in the eyes of the public, the damage had been done.
Flight Attendant Gone Wild
Airlines just can’t catch a break lately. A few weeks after the Dao incident, American Airlines had their worst public relations scenario yet! On a flight out of San Francisco, a young mother holding a baby was hit with a stroller after an aggressive flight attendant attempted to “violently” move it. The stroller came shockingly close to hitting the infant. At that point, someone named Surain Adyanthaya started filming which shows the aftermath of the situation.
The young mother is sobbing and asking for her stroller. Unable to handle what he was seeing, a male passenger gets involved which makes the situation even worse. He gets up and says, “No, I’m not going to sit here and watch this,” and demands the name of the flight attendant. Other employees attempt to usher the strangely irate flight attendant off the plane. As if the situation involving a literal baby couldn’t get any worse, it certainly does.
Flight Attendant Tries to Fight Passenger
Thankfully, Surain Adyanthaya was filming the whole incident and uploaded the video on Facebook where it quickly went viral. The male passenger walked back to his seat after standing up for the woman and the flight attendant walks back onto the plane. Things only get worse from there. The male passenger tells the employee, “Hey, bud, you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat.” The employee responds telling him to “stay out of it”.
Soon the men are facing off and the employee prompts the man, “Hit me! Come on, bring it on!” and later exclaims “You don’t even know what the story is!” The male passenger is upset himself by this point and says, “I don’t care what the story is, you almost hurt a baby!” Yikes! American Airlines issued a statement saying the employee was removed from duty and that they were conduction and “investigation”. They also said that the video and the employee;’s behavior “does not reflect their values”. According to Adyanthaya, the mother at the center of the original debacle was also involuntarily escorted off the plane.
Giant Bunny Death
About a month after the Dr. Dao incident, United decided to try again for the title of worst airline PR of all time. Simon, a 3-foot giant rabbit, was purchased by a group in Iowa from his original owner in London and was sent on a flight to his new home. His owners had big dreams for Simon, particularly winning Iowa State Fair’s biggest rabbit contest.
Unfortunately, after the flight from London to Chicago, Simon was found dead. His former owner and new owners were obviously very upset that this had taken place. They demanded an investigation into his death, as he was a completely healthy rabbit before the trip. Of course, what was found out did not bode well for the airline.
It turns out that the rabbit was probably accidentally locked in a freezer for up to sixteen hours on the flight, which accidentally caused his death. The new development came from an airline employee who apparently witnessed the mistake. The airline decided to double down on their mistake and even had Simon cremated after his death which was against the wishes of the owners.
Thus, they can’t even have a proper autopsy performed in order to find out what really caused his death. The owners’ attorney alleges this was the airline’s way of “destroying evidence”. United will more than likely have to settle big time for the loss of Simon who was expected to ultimately win the world’s biggest rabbit title once he grew to his full size. Not a great year in payouts for United.
Ft. Lauderdale Brawl
Spirit Airlines is a new one on the list but they certainly aren’t exempt from bad publicity. Most recently, a full out brawl was unleashed after they canceled fights. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, people completely lost their minds after almost three hundred flights were canceled within a week period.
In what makes for faulty passenger confidence (at best), Spirit actually blames their own pilots for the issues and is even in the process of taking them to court. Ultimately, this spilled over into a huge brawl between passengers, Spirit employees, and police. After mayhem was unleashed at the ticket counter, police had to step in to try to “keep the peace”. However, it ended with police being accused of police brutality.
Flier Sues after Being Stuck
Although airlines used to try to ensure passengers that being comfortable on their flight was of utmost priority, such a claim certainly seems to have fallen by the wayside as of late. An Australian man sued American Airlines after he said he was forced to sit between two obese people.
Because he was uncomfortable, the man ended up having to “crouch, kneel, brace and stand” on a long flight. He also said that he already had curvature of the spine and the situated aggravated his medical condition. He reportedly asked if he could spend the flight in the bathroom but they said no. He said, “The airline could have put me in a crew seat or moved people around but they did nothing.”
Black Doctor Discriminated Against
Chalk another one up for the discrimination files. While on a Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis, a man suddenly became unresponsive. Flight attendants asked if there were any doctors on board, and one woman named Tamika Cross immediately stepped up to assist. Cross is an African-American OB-GYN. However, after she volunteered the flight attendant responded to her “’oh no sweetie put ur hand down.”
The flight attendant also told her they were searching for “actual” physicians. Cross attempted to push her call button a second time and the flight attendant said she needed to provide credentials to prove she was a doctor. While all this was going on, the man still needed medical attention. Finally, a white man approached the flight attendants and said he too was a doctor. Cross said the flight attendant then said, “Thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials.”
This Is What a Doctor Looks Like
Tamika Cross wrote about the incident on Facebook and it immediately went viral with people outraged across various forms of social media. It even sprung up an original hashtag “#thisiswhatadoctorlookslike” with women across the country sharing their photos while in their medical garb.
In response to the outrage, Delta launched an investigation and said the story was “troubling”. Cross said she isn’t sure why the attendant refused her but noted, “I’m a double minority. I’m black and a woman, plus I’m young. I’m not sure which part (she) didn’t like.” She said she hopes the flight attendant does lose her job but undergoes sensitivity training and perhaps an apology from Delta.
First Class Discrimination
Next up is American Airlines. This incident seems to be quite indicative of the state of things today in the United States of America. Rane Baldwin was traveling with a friend named Jane Novack on a flight from Kentucky to Charlotte, North Carolina. The pair had purchased first class tickets and expected to treat themselves to a fancy trip. However, when Baldwin came to board the flight, she was shocked to find out that her ticket was downgraded. She was placed in the back of the plane.
Baldwin’s friend, Janet Novack, was not reassigned. The kicker here is that Baldwin is black and Novack is white. The airline apparently did not give any reasoning as to why the switch was processed but after be questioned an airline attendant said there were a limited number of first class seats on the plane, which is strange considering Baldwin purchased one in the first place. Novack has documented the entire experience on Twitter.
The Back of the Bus
Of course, Rane Baldwin was completely upset by the incident. She agreed to sit in the back and tried to accept the incident as nothing wrong. However, shortly thereafter her friend Jane Novack was offered yet another seat in first class which would call into question the airline’s reasoning of there being a shortage of seats. Baldwin said, “I’ve never felt so unimportant my entire life. This flight was the most blatantly racist thing that’s ever happened to me. It was baffling and hurtful that the crew seemed completely aware of what they were doing and just didn’t care.”
She also compared her struggle to being kept in the back of the bus and also stated that she was the one who purchased the tickets in the first place, not her friend. Janet Novack also spoke up on Twitter saying that American Airlines is “prejudiced and ignorant” and that “they literally didn’t believe I was flying with a black woman.” As of yet, the Airline has yet to issue a response but it certainly doesn’t look good. Novack has also stated that American Airlines has only spoken to her and has not contacted Rane.