United Airlines' Twitter Turbulence

April 6, 2017

United Airlines Twitter Scandal

I always advise companies to make sure their communications have the right voice. That is, don’t sound like an overbearing, cold corporation if your goal is to project a warm, customer-friendly image. When Twitter went bonkers in response to two young girls being removed from a United Airlines flight for wearing leggings, the tone of its response was crucial. So what did United tweet?

 “United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.” Very frosty and bureaucratic. 

Later the airline tweeted: “The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel.” Where is the human voice? Remember these were girls and not adults. 

United got blasted by the likes of Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, Patricia Arquette, William Shatner, and hundreds of potential customers. The lesson: Tone-deaf social media messages can explode rapidly, and it’s hard to undo the damage. 

No one is arguing that United can’t enforce clothing standards on travelers who are using free employee-benefit tickets. But the social media crew at United seems to have been caught off guard. And what’s wrong with leggings?

United’s Lesson: Tone-deaf social media messages explode rapidly, and it’s hard to undo the damage @united

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Make sure your communications have the right voice @united

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