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United’s PR crisis has ‘created opportunities’ for its competitors

Paul Fombelle, associate professor and service marketing expert in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, comments on the recent United Airlines public relations scandal involving a 69-year-old passenger being forcefully removed from their plane and what the air service can do to mend its reputation.


April 14, 2017

Photo by InSapphoWeTrust/Flickr.


United Airlines is still in the midst of a public relations crisis after cellphone videos captured by passengers on a flight from Chicago Sunday night showed a 69-year-old man being aggressively dragged off a plane. Paul Fombelle, D’Amore-McKim School of Business associate professor and service marketing expert, weighs in on the situation.

Fombelle believes the airline should have dealt with the overbooked flight before passengers boarded. Airlines are changing, as with other service industry sectors around the world, placing one passenger’s or customer’s time and appreciation over another for the best monetary return. If a company continues to operate like this, they will eventually be phased out by their competition.

“United needs to convince current and future customers that it views them as more than just a profit to be optimized. If a customer thinks United might put less value on their business than that of a more elite traveler, they will quickly seek out alternatives. This will take time,” said Fombelle.

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