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Postscript – United’s Dr. Dao Debacle

[by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications] In the three days that have passed since I drafted our initial blog post on this unnecessary incident, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz tried a do-over on ABC, finally offering what seemed to be a more heartfelt apology to Dr. David Dao, the 69-year-old passenger violently dragged off of a United flight last Sunday. He ordered that all passengers on the flight with Dr. Dao receive a full refund. The three Chicago Department of Aviation officers who strong-armed Dr. Dao are now on leave.

But in the end that’s all too little too late. These are actions that should have happened immediately. Mr. Munoz’ original tone deaf statements to the media and to United employees will continue to be regarded as the window into the corporation’s soul.

And there’s more news on Dr. Dao:

  • He was treated for a “significant concussion,” according to his attorney.
  • He lost two front teeth, has a broken nose and sustained sinus injuries requiring reconstructive surgery . (If you watch the video carefully, you can see the force with which his head slams into an armrest as he is violently extracted from his seat).
  • His daughter held a press conference expressing the family’s horror at the incident.
  • His legal team announced it will file a lawsuit once due diligence is complete.

The exclamation point for United and its shareholders on this cataclysm: the company lost nearly $1 billion (yes, with a “B”) in its market value.

None of this should have happened. But it did.

None of United’s bumbling in the aftermath should have happened. But it did. Why? We may learn that United’s initial response was dictated by its legal counsel. The true contrition came later in the week – when I’d guess the airline’s crisis counsel was finally brought to the table.

It’s critically important, in any crisis, for organizations to work with both their lawyer and crisis consultant from the very onset of an issue. There are legal considerations in any crisis that must be carefully weighed, but they must be balanced with compassionate, human communication.

By | April 13, 2017 | Uncategorized

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