Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month, you’ve no doubt seen the uproar caused by an incident where a United Airlines passenger was forcibly removed from a flight just prior to takeoff. The situation led to international backlash, countless jokes and Internet memes at United’s expense.
To make matters even worse, United CEO Oscar Munoz released an initial statement that was criticized by many as tone-deaf and insensitive. It also contained one of the most infamous made-up words of all time, stating his regret when United Airlines had to ‘re-accommodate’ their customer.
As with most high profile PR blunders, the blowback from the United Airlines incident wasn’t so much about the removal of the passenger itself, but the company’s seemingly apathetic response. Munoz eventually changed his tune, however, and apologized for the situation, labeling it as a “mistake of epic proportions.”
Eventually public outcry will die down and the event will be remembered as an embarrassing blemish in the company’s history. However, for the time being, ‘United Airlines’ is just about synonymous with ‘root canal’ or ‘telemarketer.’ Here are a few other well-known PR goofs that might make the folks at United feel a little bit better about their jobs.
Phillip Morris touts the financial benefits of death from smoking
In 2001, tobacco giant Phillip Morris published the results of a study that outlined the positive financial impact of early deaths due to smoking. The study examined the economic benefits from smoking deaths in the Czech Republic – stating that smoking “resulted in a net gain of around $147 million, including saving between 943 million and 1.2 billion korunas (about $24 million-to-$30 million) in health-care, pension and public-housing costs due to the early deaths of smokers.” Not surprisingly, the company was grilled by media outlets around the world and eventually apologized.