(Don’t) Come Fly With Me: A Qualitative Examination of United Airlines’ Public Relations Crisis Following United Express Flight 3411
Cullen, Thomas Robert
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The purpose of this thesis was to understand whether the influence of traditional media hinders an organization in framing their own narrative following a crisis. United Express Flight 3411 served as a case study. In this episode, a Vietnamese immigrant was violently removed from Flight 3411 in favor of United Airlines employees. Following the incident, captured on video and shared on social media, United CEO Oscar Munoz gained widespread notoriety for his inconsistent and often ill-considered crisis management strategies. A qualitative analysis was conducted of United Airlines’ internal and external crisis messaging, in addition to the coverage from five major news outlets. It was found that United Airlines was unable to dictate the narrative of this crisis event, and that the news reporting was, in reality, often guided by the public sentiment as witnessed on social media. Consequently, this study provides guidelines and suggestions for both crisis practitioners and scholars.