Since a video showing a paying passenger who refused to de-board a plane being violently removed went viral on Monday, United Airlines' public relations crisis has taken off. The airline's handling of the situation caused widespread public outcry, particularly on social media, and financial loss, as United's stock market cap reportedly dropped by at least $255 million on Tuesday. Because companies tend to make massive personnel changes when a costly crisis arises, the recent incident may have some people wondering if United CEO Oscar Munoz will be fired over the controversy.
Munoz publicly apologized twice after the incident, which was recorded on multiple passengers' phones, occurred on Sunday. According to USA Today, the CEO issued his first apology on Monday, followed by a second statement on Tuesday. The first statement was brief, calling the event "upsetting," and promising a "detailed review of what happened." The second statement went further, as Munoz called the event "truly horrific" and promising a "thorough review" with results to be communicated by April 30.
No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right ... I promise you we will do better.
Now, the question remains, are Munoz's repeated apologies — and any policy changes made thereafter — enough? While his apologies were warranted, Munoz's response has been criticized, largely because of an email he reportedly sent to United's employees on Monday. The email, as tweeted by CNBC's Steve Kopack, apparently told United employees that the crew members on Flight 3411 "were left with no choice" but to have security personnel forcibly remove the passenger from the plane.
As of Tuesday evening, there was no clear indication that Munoz would be fired. In fact, his communications did not clearly detail any disciplinary action or terminations that would take place as a result of Sunday's incident. With the "thorough review" pending, though, the fallout from the viral video and the incident it shows could become clearer in the days and weeks ahead.
What was clear Tuesday evening was that Munoz's company has an uphill battle ahead of it. The airline faced harsh criticism from individuals and other companies online throughout the early part of the week. Some individuals reportedly called for a boycott of the airline. If carried out, that boycott could further threaten United's falling stock prices. In other words, Munoz's job was not immediately threatened by Sunday's incident, but his company's reputation surely was.