Whatever the reason for a passenger to be ‘volunteered’ to leave a flight they've actually boarded, and regardless of how that customer reacted (let’s not forget passengers are actually customers), the manner in which they are treated must be without blemish.
That such a violent ejection, as recently evidenced on a United Express flight, was carried in front of other seated passengers was bad enough. It got worse when it was recorded on their mobile phones, but turned into a commercial disaster when it went globally viral, courtesy of global media.
The rights and wrong of this particularly distressing incident are still being debated; however, whatever the findings, all companies can learn lessons from it.
1. The prime one is that instant social media channels exist all around you - learn to know about them, and understand the impacts they can have.
2. It’s not all negative either, with individual staff as well as companies, enjoying positive exposure when something really good happens. The following may jerk a few memories...
'World's greatest airline employee?worker pays fare for stranded woman’.
This was the actual headline in a major UK newspaper concerning a great act of selflessness that took place thousands of miles away in California.
3. Social Media is so instant that it’s now normal for external sources to have more information than the company that is in the limelight e.g. passengers actually broadcasting during aircraft evacuations.
4. Whether you like it or not, many people have a gripe and will get their views in first - fair or otherwise.
5. A company’s reputation is easily tarnished (or destroyed), dramatically affecting sales, revenue, staffs morale and working relationships with industry partners.
6. Incorporate the handling and management of social media into company contingency plans AND train your staff and any external agencies handling communications for you.
In closing, remember the old adage, true as it ever was: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!