Amid a public relations disaster that has caused both the image and the market value of United Airlines to plummet, an interesting tidbit that surfaced is that Oscar Munoz, the company’s CEO — who has been harshly criticized for his initial response to the incident — was recently named Communicator of the Year for 2017 by PR Week.
Munoz initially spoke out in support of aviation officers who forcibly removed a passenger from an overbooked United flight Sunday, but then shifted his position after a blitz of damaging publicity and social media outrage. As we reported Tuesday, Munoz has now come out and called the incident a “horrific event” and has vowed to “fix what’s broken so this never happens again.”
Those comments reflected a shift in position from hours earlier, when he called the passenger who was removed from the plane “disruptive and belligerent” and said he “emphatically” stood behind United personnel who were involved in the incident, saying they went “above and beyond.”
In its piece honoring Munoz last month, PR Week wrote: “Munoz has shown himself to be a smart, dedicated, and excellent leader who understands the value of communications. His ability to connect and share with employees his vision for the airline, and get them to rally behind it, is a key reason PRWeek named him 2017 Communicator of the Year.”
The New York Times notes: “The passenger, Dr. David Dao, was identified late Tuesday in a statement from his lawyers, who said he was undergoing treatment in a Chicago-area hospital for his injuries. Some videos had showed him with a bloody face.”
The Times also reports: “On social media, the firestorm swept around the world. Chinese social media users accused United, which does a lot of business in the country, of racism by targeting Dr. Dao, who appeared to be Asian. In the United States, customers showed pictures of their United loyalty or credit cards cut into pieces. And lawmakers called for an investigation.”
Video of Dao’s forceful removal from the plane can be seen by clicking here.