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Man pulled off of overbooked flight UA3411 (ORD-SDF) 9 Apr 2017 {Settlement reached}

Man pulled off of overbooked flight UA3411 (ORD-SDF) 9 Apr 2017 {Settlement reached}

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Statement from United Airlines Regarding Resolution with Dr. David Dao - released 27 April 2017
CHICAGO, April 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do.
DOT findings related to the UA3411 9 April 2017 IDB incident 12 May 2017

What facts do we know?
  • UA3411, operated by Republic Airways, ORD-SDF on Sunday, April 9, 2017. UA3411 was the second to last flight to SDF for United. AA3509 and UA4771 were the two remaining departures for the day. Also, AA and DL had connecting options providing for same-day arrival in SDF.
  • After the flight was fully boarded, United determined four seats were needed to accommodate crew to SDF for a flight on Monday.
  • United solicited volunteers for VDB. (BUT stopped at $800 in UA$s, not cash). Chose not to go to the levels such as 1350 that airlines have been known to go even in case of weather impacted disruption)
  • After receiving no volunteers for $800 vouchers, a passenger volunteered for $1,600 and was "laughed at" and refused, United determined four passengers to be removed from the flight.
  • One passenger refused and Chicago Aviation Security Officers were called to forcibly remove the passenger.
  • The passenger hit the armrest in the aisle and received a concussion, a broken nose, a bloodied lip, and the loss of two teeth.
  • After being removed from the plane, the passenger re-boarded saying "I need to go home" repeatedly, before being removed again.
  • United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the flight was sold out — but not oversold. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines – the unit that operated Flight 3411 – decided they had to remove four passengers from the flight to accommodate crewmembers who were needed in Louisville the next day for a “downline connection.”

United Express Flight 3411 Review and Action Report - released 27 April 2017

Videos

Internal Communication by Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz sent an internal communication to UA employees (sources: View From The Wing, Chicago Tribune):
Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I've included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, 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. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. 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.

Oscar

Summary of Flight 3411
  • On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United's gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.
  • We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.
  • He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
  • Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
  • Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist - running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.
Email sent to all employees at 2:08PM on Tuesday, April 11.
Dear Team,

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. 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.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

Sincerely,

Oscar
Statement to customers - 27 April 2017
Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It's not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.

Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.

For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?

It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.

Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it's my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.

That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.

We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.

We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new "no-questions-asked" $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.

I believe we must go further in redefining what United's corporate citizenship looks like in our society. If our chief good as a company is only getting you to and from your destination, that would show a lack of moral imagination on our part. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.

Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, "I fly United."

Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.

We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.

With Great Gratitude,

Oscar Munoz
CEO
United Airlines
Aftermath
Poll: Your Opinion of United Airlines
Poll link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KP68GYG
Results link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results...Q6B2B/instant/
Reference Material

UA's Customer Commitment says:
Occasionally we may not be able to provide you with a seat on a specific flight, even if you hold a ticket, have checked in, are present to board on time, and comply with other requirements. This is called an oversale, and occurs when restrictions apply to operating a particular flight safely (such as aircraft weight limits); when we have to substitute a smaller aircraft in place of a larger aircraft that was originally scheduled; or if more customers have checked in and are prepared to board than we have available seats.

If your flight is in an oversale situation, you will not be denied a seat until we first ask for volunteers willing to give up their confirmed seats. If there are not enough volunteers, we will deny boarding to passengers in accordance with our written policy on boarding priority. If you are involuntarily denied boarding and have complied with our check-in and other applicable rules, we will give you a written statement that describes your rights and explains how we determine boarding priority for an oversold flight. You will generally be entitled to compensation and transportation on an alternate flight.

We make complete rules for the payment of compensation, as well as our policy about boarding priorities, available at airports we serve. We will follow these rules to ensure you are treated fairly. Please be aware that you may be denied boarding without compensation if you do not check in on time or do not meet certain other requirements, or if we offer you alternative transportation that is planned to arrive at your destination or first stopover no later than one hour after the planned arrival time of your original flight.
CoC is here: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con...-carriage.aspx
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Old Apr 20, 17, 6:47 am
  #6346  
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Originally Posted by cerealmarketer View Post
There is no confirmation of this. Sources are conflicting.

Some pax said he was fine. We have another, seated across the aisle and doing the video who said he became 'angry' and said something about being Asian to the United agent.

One of many unknowns is whether UA internal policy required a threat to safety for a removal. It could simply be noncompliant with UA employee instructions - crew or not - and possibly at odds with the contract of carriage interpretation some have.

Belligerent has many synonyms in Webster's, including argumentative, feisty, and contentious - all of which were on display in the later discussion video - well after the shock of the initial "we're taking you off" news arrived.

Another unknown. Remember, we have zero footage of when the agent made the offers and initially told him he'd be IDBed, which could have been when he was most surprised and upset.

So again, we may be extrapolating personal experiences onto something that could very well be a policy system rather than individual behavior issue.
So having an argument with an airline employee implies belligerence and can result in being forceably deplaned? WOW!

What happens when (not if) an airline employee is belligerent? (Oscar's answer seems to be that the employee has his full support and won't be disciplined in any way.)
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Old Apr 20, 17, 6:49 am
  #6347  
 
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
So having an argument with an airline employee implies belligerence and can result in being forceably deplaned? WOW!

What happens when (not if) an airline employee is belligerent?
We don't know the UA internal policy.

What's written in those GG CODES, manuals, etc could be in conflict with the CoC.

We know arguments with flight crews on airlines in general may result in getting deplaned. FA goest to pilot and pulls the 'threat to safety.' Whether it also applies to ground agents while on the plane...we might never know if it settles out of court.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 6:57 am
  #6348  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
So having an argument with an airline employee implies belligerence and can result in being forcibly deplaned? WOW!
Come on. You're a frequent enough flyer not to be at all surprised by this.

Originally Posted by cerealmarketer View Post
We know arguments with flight crews on airlines in general may result in getting deplaned. FA goest to pilot and pulls the 'threat to safety.'
An irrational or confrontational airline employee can warp your most innocent remark or action into "belligerence" or a "threat to safety." This happens every day.

I once had an FA try to throw me off an aircraft because I recognized her from the layover / irrops-voucher hotel her crew and I had been stuck in the prior night. That day, "Good morning, nice to see you again" was a "threat to safety."

It would be great if the Dao case forced less unilateral unpredictable abuse of passengers by airline front-liners.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 6:57 am
  #6349  
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Originally Posted by cerealmarketer View Post
We don't know the UA internal policy.

What's written in those GG CODES, manuals, etc could be in conflict with the CoC.

We know arguments with flight crews on airlines in general may result in getting deplaned. FA goest to pilot and pulls the 'threat to safety.' Whether it also applies to ground agents while on the plane...we might never know if it settles out of court.
Why not extend it to phone agents too and in fact the neighbor who works for UA in a secretarial support type position at headquarters? After all, once you challenge award availability or tell that neighbor to keep his/her dog off your lawn, you're obviously too difficult for a FA to handle and therefore must be a threat to aviation safety.

Everything that I've seen says that crew orders (with some qualifications for being legal, etc.) must be obeyed. Crew means cabin crew (FAs, pursers, etc.) and cockpit crew (pilots, first officers, etc.). It does not include GAs, ground supervisors, baggage handlers, etc.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 7:08 am
  #6350  
 
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Why not extend it to phone agents too and in fact the neighbor who works for UA in a secretarial support type position at headquarters? After all, once you challenge award availability or tell that neighbor to keep his/her dog off your lawn, you're obviously too difficult for a FA to handle and therefore must be a threat to aviation safety.

Everything that I've seen says that crew orders (with some qualifications for being legal, etc.) must be obeyed. Crew means cabin crew (FAs, pursers, etc.) and cockpit crew (pilots, first officers, etc.). It does not include GAs, ground supervisors, baggage handlers, etc.
Not saying it's right. Saying it could be in their internal policy. I haven't seen anything either way - a reliable source like fastair might know.

But am saying we don't have a conclusion either way to say the GA was lying outright about his state.

Another possibility is the GA didn't lie, but simply didn't follow policy - such as an angry passenger not obeying UA employee orders isn't allowed to be deplaned according to policy.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 7:15 am
  #6351  
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IMO there's a big difference between angry and threatening. Can't we all just disagree, even in an airport?
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Old Apr 20, 17, 7:41 am
  #6352  
 
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Common sense would have been to increase the offer until four volunteers were found.

Common sense would have been for UA staff to know that this was not an IDB.

Common sense would have been for the pilot to show some leadership and try to resolve the situation before the "cops" were called.

Common sense would have been for the manager (especially assuming that it really was a UA manager and not just a supervisor) to try to resolve the situation instead of presumably ordering or allowing the GA to call the "cops."

And, finally, common sense is for all of us to recognize that the people who attacked Dr. Dao were not LEO or "Law Enforcement" (in the words of post #6344 by spin88) but rather just airport security guards who had been ordered months ago not to have the word POLICE on their "uniforms." There is a difference.
I assume the reason UA doesn't allow agents to use "common sense" to increase voucher amounts is because someone ran a calculation. You say increase it from $800 to $1200 is just common sense. Well, I don't know the numbers, but there are probably thousands of VDB's throughout the year. Someone calculated it's cheaper to pay IDB compensation than raise to $1200. The cost of each one going up by $400 is probably huge. Is it as huge as the settlement? Who knows...but nobody expected that scenario to happen. Even so, say it's a million dollars...their analysts may still deem keeping it $800 was the right financial decision. There's no way to know which .000001% will escalate to what happened to the doctor. So you keep all at a $800 cap and in the long run save money.

I also don't agree that it's obviously not IDB. I've read the COC sections multiple times and I think there are folks on this board, myself included, who could see the argument that this was IDB. So just because it's clear to you, doesn't mean everyone universally agrees. Unfortunately, this will probably not make it to trial, so we won't have a legal answer.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 7:54 am
  #6353  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
IMO there's a big difference between angry and threatening. Can't we all just disagree, even in an airport?
When you think you're just expressing yourself, but a gate agent or FA tells her supervisor or a LEO you appeared "threatening," it's he-said, she-said, and game over, you lose.

This is the standard dynamic in customer interactions with airline employees. Has been for years. You have no leverage.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 8:42 am
  #6354  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
IMO there's a big difference between angry and threatening. Can't we all just disagree, even in an airport?
The apparent answer seems to be, No.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 8:46 am
  #6355  
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Originally Posted by sw3 View Post
Doesn't matter that the pax had already boarded, even if the plane was already taxiing or even departed it could have been turned back and pax deplaned per the force majeure and unforeseeable conditions clause of the COC about the possibility of denying service to anyone at any point for that kind reason. This is not only in UA's contract but also AA's, DL's, WN's. So indeed the 4 passengers had already boarded legally but they were also legally requested to deplane as long as this came with the relevant compensation and as long as it's demonstrated that it was because of an unforeseen circumstance.
This wasn't a force majeure situation. Force majeure requires, at minimum, factors beyond the control of the airline, e.g. war, earthquake, etc. Also, needing to transport crew is hardly an unforeeable condition. The CofC is a contract, and contractual language has specific meaning. A term that says, "We can choose to transport you or not transport you on our whim," renders the contract illusory and unenforceable.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 8:50 am
  #6356  
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Originally Posted by flyerbaby19 View Post
I assume the reason UA doesn't allow agents to use "common sense" to increase voucher amounts is because someone ran a calculation. You say increase it from $800 to $1200 is just common sense. Well, I don't know the numbers, but there are probably thousands of VDB's throughout the year. Someone calculated it's cheaper to pay IDB compensation than raise to $1200. The cost of each one going up by $400 is probably huge. Is it as huge as the settlement? Who knows...but nobody expected that scenario to happen. Even so, say it's a million dollars...their analysts may still deem keeping it $800 was the right financial decision. There's no way to know which .000001% will escalate to what happened to the doctor. So you keep all at a $800 cap and in the long run save money.

I also don't agree that it's obviously not IDB. I've read the COC sections multiple times and I think there are folks on this board, myself included, who could see the argument that this was IDB. So just because it's clear to you, doesn't mean everyone universally agrees. Unfortunately, this will probably not make it to trial, so we won't have a legal answer.
If UA really just wants to minimize costs of overbooked situations on a flight by flight basis, they should look at what it would cost to IDB the needed number of passengers for whom the mandatory IDB compensation would be minimum and compare this to offering UA$ vouchers using their 75% breakage rate estimate. If one seat is needed for an overnight rebooking and the customer with the lowest fare for the segment paid just $20 (including only the taxes and fees that are supposed to be used in the calculation), the IDB will cost UA $80, so only UA$320 in vouchers should be offered.

The problem with this thinking is that there's a significant good will value in getting the needed seats through VDBs that make customers happy rather than forcing an IDB on your cheapest victim. Moreover, the voucher tends to encourage someone to buy another UA ticket, perhaps for travel that they wouldn't otherwise have done.

Last edited by MSPeconomist; Apr 20, 17 at 9:37 am Reason: Correcting autocorrect
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Old Apr 20, 17, 9:29 am
  #6357  
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Originally Posted by halls120 View Post
Whether you think UA was in the right or the wrong, this is the bottom line. UA's legal fault at this point is almost irrelevant, except to the lawyers on both sides who are going to fight this out. UA has lost the moral high ground, and is going to pay dearly for imposing unreasonable rules they require their employees to work under.
Exactly. As I said like 6000 posts ago, I was stunned that apparently at no time in this process did anyone think that with roughly 100 people on a plane there would be roughly 120 cameras. I'm actually surprised that we haven't seen more movies.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 9:34 am
  #6358  
 
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Originally Posted by flyerbaby19 View Post
I assume the reason UA doesn't allow agents to use "common sense" to increase voucher amounts is because someone ran a calculation. You say increase it from $800 to $1200 is just common sense. Well, I don't know the numbers, but there are probably thousands of VDB's throughout the year. Someone calculated it's cheaper to pay IDB compensation than raise to $1200. The cost of each one going up by $400 is probably huge. Is it as huge as the settlement? Who knows...but nobody expected that scenario to happen. Even so, say it's a million dollars...their analysts may still deem keeping it $800 was the right financial decision. There's no way to know which .000001% will escalate to what happened to the doctor. So you keep all at a $800 cap and in the long run save money.


From a risk management perspective, using an equation is fine for this analysis but you have to factor in all foreseeable avenues of risk. For this exercise "IDB passenger refuses to IDB" doesn't seem like an unreasonable risk to plan for and factor into the math. It's also not unforeseeable that police removing someone from an airplane has a near 100% chance of making national news on just about every day but election day, whereas police removing someone from a gate area has a pretty low chance of making it (more background distractions, only a handful of people hearing the conversation between the passenger and gate agents, etc...).


You're right that you don't know which situations will escalate, which is why you have to evaluate all of them as if they might. So, for the sake of argument, let's say that United values staying off the news at $1,000,000 per year. If you IDB 10,000 passengers per year, with 1,000 of those are IDB'd from the airplane itself, and correctly identify that the moment the plane boards is the moment the national exposure risk escalates substantially, it then becomes worth an extra $1000 per customer to resolve the situation prior to use of Police force.


With that in mind, your max VDB offer (once boarded) then becomes IDB/VDB breakeven point +$1k per passenger. You then save money vs. the valued $1,000,000/yr you assigned to staying off of the national news when the situation resolves it self for < $1k extra 99% of the time.


This reduces the number of "in plane" IDB's to 10 per year (using that 99% math), significantly reducing your exposure. In the event the situation STILL becomes sour (using the Flight 3411 case), saying you offered $1800 with no takers and thus called law enforcement puts you in a much more defensible position, and may even buy you the critical mass needed with the public to afford any long term PR damage.


The math mistake United made in its IDB/VDB formula was assigning a $0 value to negative media exposure (or forgetting to factor it in at all).
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Old Apr 20, 17, 9:35 am
  #6359  
 
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Originally Posted by fastair View Post
Didn't he originate in LAX?
I had seen some reports which indicated that he originated in Asia.

Originally Posted by flyerbaby19 View Post
I also don't agree that it's obviously not IDB. ... Unfortunately, this will probably not make it to trial, so we won't have a legal answer.
You can get the answer direct for the source, the DOT.

https://www.transportation.gov/contact-us

Please do and post their reply.
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Old Apr 20, 17, 9:51 am
  #6360  
 
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Originally Posted by mdkowals View Post
From a risk management perspective, using an equation is fine for this analysis but you have to factor in all foreseeable avenues of risk. For this exercise "IDB passenger refuses to IDB" doesn't seem like an unreasonable risk to plan for and factor into the math. It's also not unforeseeable that police removing someone from an airplane has a near 100% chance of making national news on just about every day but election day, whereas police removing someone from a gate area has a pretty low chance of making it (more background distractions, only a handful of people hearing the conversation between the passenger and gate agents, etc...).
....
The math mistake United made in its IDB/VDB formula was assigning a $0 value to negative media exposure (or forgetting to factor it in at all).
This error of not looking at external costs and more generally brand damage was the hallmark of Smisik's (third rate) team's reign. They would run a spreadsheet and not think about the secondary impacts. For example, they saved $$$ on "freshbrew" coffee, easy to see what they saved, but harder to quantify the brand damage. It showed in UA's horrible (and still horrible) NPS scores but that did not figure into the analysis.

There is lots of this "running United like a business" thinking to be unwound if UA is going to restore its reputation.
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