In the aftermath of United Airlines' violent "deplaning" of a passenger Sunday night which has gone viral, the airline has lost about $1 billion in value today, thanks in great part to the tone-deaf response by the company's CEO, Oscar Munoz.
"This went to the next level when the CEO and the [United] executives began to respond," said Andy Swan of LikeFolio, which monitors social media for financial applications. "They threw gasoline on a fire."
The apology note issued by CEO Munoz on Monday and then his letter to employees that evening almost "restarted the crisis," Swan added, saying he watched mentions of United skyrocket on social media for a second and a third time.
Munoz doubled down in the letter to employees, saying those involved "followed established procedures." He called the passenger "disruptive and belligerent." In one of the videos, the passenger said he was a doctor and had to return home to treat patients on Monday.
"When management stepped out — and [they did it] in most offensive way possible — you started to see negative mentions surge," he said. "[United] invited some really negative stuff on themselves."
The passenger has been identified as 69-year-old grandfather Dr David Dao.
Dr Dao was heard in videos captured of his shocking eviction saying he needed to get home to Louisville so he could see patients. Dr Dao is a father of five and a grandfather, who specializes in internal medicine.
In related news, one of the officer's who "deplaned" Dr. Dao has been placed on leave.
Here's the text of the CEO's letter to employees that was dispatched last night:
"Dear Team, Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I've included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.
"As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.
"While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right. I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident.
"Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.
Munoz also included a summary of how United viewed the incident:
On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.
We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.
He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist - running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.