This week the world watched in horror as Chicago aviation officers forcibly ripped a passenger from his airline seat and dragged down the aisle of the plane by his arms.

Onlookers created videos and cries of outrage and disbelief filled the air.

The reason…he refused to give up his seat to an employee stating that he is a doctor and needed to get home to see his patients.

This event happening just weeks after yet another incident involving the children of an employee being bumped for wearing leggings.

Social media quickly filled with opinions and criticism of United Airlines.

What was United’s initial response to the world who was waiting on answers?

Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, said in a telephone interview on Monday that “we had asked several times, politely,” for the man to give up his seat before force was used.

“We had a customer who refused to leave the aircraft,” he said. “We have a number of customers on board that aircraft, and they want to get to their destination on time and safely, and we want to work to get them there.

“Since that customer refused to leave the aircraft, we had to call” the police, and they came on board, he said.


Wow…really? He doesn’t have the right to refuse to give up a seat he paid for to a company employee?

Apparently, he doesn’t.

It turns out, that airlines can in fact involuntarily bump you from a flight and you agree to that policy when you book your ticket. It’s in that fine print that none of us read.

But there are rules they have to follow, and the question remains; is the way employees and security handled this particular incident the best possible way they could have done it? Or were there other options?

United Airlines has been working hard to build up its public image over the past year.  The treatment of this man just shot a year’s worth of hard work all to hell.

What needs to happen next?

I have 3 Cardinal Rules I follow and teach when mistakes are made…and they apply no matter who you are, what company you work for or what the situation is.

The World Wants an Apology

We all screw up. It’s human nature. United, screwed up royally. The Chicago Department of Aviation screwed up royally.

Own it. Apologize for it. And not some sorry apology like the CEO actually gave:

Re-accommodate? Huh? Is that what you call dragging a screaming man down the aisle of your plane in front of horrified passengers?

That’s not the apology we were looking for.  This came after his statement to United Airlines staff that said he stood behind his employees actions.

United needs to give the world and of course the passenger in question a sincere apology for the treatment of its passengers.

And not just the airline. The Chicago Department of Aviation has some apologizing of their own to do.

These officers are there to protect us. Not to rip us from our seats, bloody our faces and drag us down the aisle because we didn’t want to give up a seat we paid for!

In fact it was their decision to tear him from the plane.

Rule Number One: Own your mistake and apologize.

This Needs More Than a Bandaid

The world is watching United closely right now to see how they are going to fix what happened. Not just with the passenger who was battered, but with the world.

We all sat there watching that video thinking the same thing, ”That could have been me.”

United has a HUGE opportunity right now to put their brand image back on the map…and they’re choking.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is taking their own steps to fix the situation by placing the officers on leave while the heat dies down and they investigate what happened.

But everyone is on edge now; passengers, crew, officials, and security.

We want to know how these two companies are going to fix this situation.

Rule Number Two: Clearly define how are you going to fix whatever it was that happened.

Looking Ahead

Clearly these two companies have their work cut out for them. Policies need to be reviewed and employees need better training.

Seriously, while they claim the guy was becoming belligerent (he was angry, but not violent) there could have been a better way to handle this.

We want answers and now that we are very aware of the bumping policy, we want changes.  Passengers want to know that they can fly safely and not have to worry about something like this happening to them.

So United Airlines and Chicago Dept. of Aviation, what steps are you going to take to ensure something this horrific never happens again?

Rule Number Three: Review all policies and practices and create a clear-cut plan to ensure your mistake doesn’t become history and repeat itself.

I think we can all learn something from what happened. I know I have…and I hope United Airlines and Chicago Department of Aviation have too.

Mistakes are going to happen. It’s inevitable. It’s what you do in the immediate aftermath that make all the difference in the world.