Viral Video Tanks United Airlines Brand by Nearly $800 Million

Hal Conick
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? United’s brand took an $800 million hit after a video of the company allowing police to violently drag a man off a flight went viral.

So what? While this method followed the company’s rules, the branding and market damage has been costly.

Now what? Branding must be considered in every area of the company’s terms of service.  

​April 11, 2017

United’s brand took a nearly $800 million loss after a video of a customer being violently pulled off a plane went viral.

United Airlines took a huge brand hit when a video of police dragging a passenger off a flight at United’s behest went viral. Now, Gizmodo reports that United’s market capitalization has fallen nearly $800 million.

A previous market capitalization of $22.5 billion on Monday fell to $21.7 billion on Tuesday, Gizmodo reports. United also saw its stock drop 3.72% to 2.66 early Tuesday morning.

The video, captured by a passenger, shows a United Airlines passenger, David Dao, getting his face smashed into an armrest before being dragged down the aisle and out of the plane by police. Dao was asked to “voluntarily” leave the overbooked flight for a United employee who needed to fly on stand-by. 

In another passenger-recorded video, Dao runs back onto the plane with a bloodied mouth saying he just wants to go home and says “just kill me.”

Hashtags on Twitter, such as #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos, have pilloried the company for the incident with barbs such as "Body armor is located under your seat cushion” and "United Airlines. Putting the hospital in hospitality.”​


 Video shows a passenger forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane


Despite the branding and market hit, United is standing by its decision to remove Dao from the overbooked flight. United CEO Oscar Munoz wrote in a note to 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. 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.”

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Author Bio:
Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.
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