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Can the latest apology from United Airlines heal the rift?

United AirlinesOn April 12, I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  On April 19, I wrote a further commentary in my regular column for The Globe & MailLessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand) – in which laid out five leadership lessons that any CEO should internalize so as not to find themselves in similar shaky situations in the future.

Is it too little, too late?

I still maintain that this unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  But I am pleased to say that on April 27, Munoz also demonstrated how to do it right.  United issued the results of their internal investigation as well as a public apology in major newspapers, individual apologies to the airline’s frequent flyers (I got an email) and a statement on their website.  Granted, it may be the proverbial equivalent of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but in my opinion, late is better than never.  Continue reading

Leadership lessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand overnight)

Last week I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  My column in both the online and print editions of today’s Globe and Mail continues on this very topic.  This unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  In today’s column – Lessons from the United Airlines debacle – published in this morning’s print and online editions, I outline five leadership lessons that any CEO can take to heart.   In the interest of not destroying your brand overnight, these five things that are well worth considering and internalizing so as not to find yourself in a similar shaky scenario at any point in the future.

Five lessons that every leader should internalize

This is a topic that has been fodder for many a water cooler and coffee station conversation for the last 1-½ weeks with opinions that have ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.  You know my point of view, but I’m interested in yours.  What could Munoz have done differently to manage this situation more effectively?  With the benefit of hindsight, what other lessons would leaders take away from this unfortunate situation?  Your comments welcome.

Essential leadership lessons from the United Airlines public relations debacle

unitedlogoSo you’d have to be under a rock or in a dark cave some place to have missed the firestorm that is United Airlines which ignited sometime this past Sunday night.  After all, it’s not every day that an airline literally beats up its customer!  If you haven’t seen the video that accelerated into cyberspace (where have you been?), just Google it; you should find it within seconds.  There’s a lot of conversation about the circumstances leading up to this event, but one thing is clear.  United Airlines’ CEO, Oscar Munoz didn’t handle things well, and in today’s post, I’d like to focus on his apparent (lack of) leadership.  In this age of the Internet, there is example after example of the public relations nightmare that can fall out of a poorly-managed situation (heck, I remember the Papa John’s incident five years ago!), and unfortunately, United Airlines’ handling of this situation is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act.  Let me give you a quick rundown, at least as of last night.

United Airline’s Mistake #1

When the videos of this regrettable event first hit the worldwide web late on Sunday night, Munoz issued a public statement on Monday, which went wrong from the very beginning.  His choice of words — “re-accommodate”, “inconvenienced” and “upsetting” — came across as tone-deaf in a situation that would have more aptly been described as terrible and horrible and shocking and distressing.

ua1

Source: View from the Wing

Blunder #2

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Air Canada’s public relations blunder – what can leaders learn?

I’ll start by saying that usually I’m an Air Canada fan. Usually. In fact, I’ve even blogged about them in the past (See Good leaders listen to customers and employees and Good leaders respond to customer feedback). But last week’s major gaffe by one of their PR staffers, a senior one no less, has me shaking my head. In case you haven’t read or heard the story, here’s a short version.

LarryDogLarry, the 2-year-old Italian greyhound, was moving to Canada to join his new adopted family. Last week, while awaiting his delayed flight in San Francisco, a local staff member opened his cage to check on him, and the dog bolted. Sad as this is to an animal lover like me, this is not what has me disappointed with Air Canada. No, that came later. You see, a local CBS affiliate in California contacted Air Canada inquiring about the lost dog and received a response saying a ground team was doing its best to locate Larry. The reporter then emailed a follow-up request asking a few additional questions. Imagine her surprise when she received a response from Peter Fitzpatrick, Air Canada’s Manager of Corporate Communications: “I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the US media spends its time.” Clearly, the email was intended for a co-worker, and Fitzpatrick accidentally hit “Reply” instead of “Forward”. Oops! Continue reading