Social Media’s Impact on the United Airlines’ Crisis

Niall Social Media Crisis

By: Alexa Turkovich, Communications & Digital Strategy Committee Member

After they told two teenage girls they could not wear leggings on a plane from Denver to Minneapolis, United Airlines faced a public relations storm. Shannon Watts, who was traveling separate from the girls, overheard United employees telling the teens they could not board the aircraft.

The conversation between two teens and United Airline’s employees quickly went viral. United’s mentions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram went from an average of 2000 daily mentions to 174,000. Nearly 70 percent of these mentions were negative.

Watts said that she found out later that day that the girls were using free passes given to them from United Employees. According to United’s policy, the free passes are subject to a dress code that prohibits sleepwear, swimwear, torn clothing and revealing attire.

United Airlines spokesmen, Jonathan Guerin, said that if the issue was handled sooner, it would not have been as out-of-control. Other airlines, such as Delta, were quick to point out the publicity disaster on Twitter. Delta encouraged their customers to use their best judgment, when considering the dress code.

My take: United should handle this problem by training employees to enforce these rules, since they were under odd circumstances, in a better manner. According to Shannon Watts, this conversation between United Airlines Employees and the teenage girls was very public.

Although it is too late to take back now, the company should reconsider the importance of the people they hire. Trainings should occur to manage the Airline’s corporate reputation.

In the future, the company should remind their paying customers that they are free to wear whatever they please on their flights in an advertisement campaign, since many people still are unaware that this circumstance was unusual.

Photo Credit: NiallCook.com – Social Media Crisis Planning

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