United Airlines’ #UnitedJourney social media campaign is backfiring spectacularly after a passenger was violently dragged off a plane Sunday.
The airline launched the #UnitedJourney campaign last week in an attempt to get passengers to share their travel photos. Instead, the hashtag is being used to slam the airline and share memes related to Sunday’s now-notorious incident.
“Shame on @united! I just booked my trip to San Diego with @SouthwestAir,” tweeted @Farahbeme, with an image of the bloodied passenger.
Video footage of the passenger being forcibly removed from the overbooked United flight from Chicago to Louisville quickly went viral. The man, who has not been named, identified himself as a doctor during the incident. He was one of four passengers kicked off the flight to make room for United employees
The man said he had to see patients in the morning, according to Tyler Bridges, a fellow passenger on the flight who filmed the debacle, who was interviewed on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Monday.
“Where United employees matter more than paying customers and the patients waiting for their doctor,” tweeted @JohnnyBlizzard, with an image of the man being dragged off the plane.
Memes of the incident quickly surfaced.
"It's the perfect storm of negative social media and PR," social media expert and President of JRM Comm Jason Mollica told Fox News. "The situation itself turned into something that [United] couldn't handle and it was exacerbated by the hashtag."
Mollica noted that United was recently slammed for its decision to bar two teenage passengers from a flight for wearing leggings. With the airline's move sparking criticism on social media, United should have thought very carefully about the timing of the #UnitedJourney campaign, he added.
"I would have counselled them to say: 'look, this campaign with the hashtag, it's probably not the best campaign right now," he told Fox News. "[Instead] they should have been reaching out to customers that weren't happy with their service in the past."
Amid a firestorm of criticism over the forcible removal of the passenger in Chicago, United CEO Oscar Munoz defended the airline’s actions. “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,” he wrote, in a statement released Monday. “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.”
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers