Four lessons after United Airlines faced the music

I wanted to follow up on that United Airlines story I wrote about recently, how the neatest form of push back against dumb customer service turned out to be a song.

United Airlines very quickly jumped in and responded, and Dave Carroll, the band leader whose guitar was smashed by incompetent baggage handlers, is coming up with a second song.

In this happy ending (Big Corporation listens to small guy because of YouTube song) there are some sidebars worth noting:

  • Some things you can’t repair. In his video statement, Carroll says that United offered to ‘generously but late” compensate him. Compensation is great, but when it is forced out of the company, it’s not really damage control.
  • Better late than never. Carroll is now unexpectedly very supportive of the Customer Service person –the infamous Miss Irlweg– he ridiculed for obstinately sticking to company policy.
  • Don’t exploit the situation. Taylor guitars  jumped in on the response to say how they ‘see a lot of damaged guitars’ and offer some good pointers to packing guitars, and airline security policy etc. Unfortunately, Bob Taylor used the YouTube video in a way that came across as crass, rather than helpful.
  • Put the handbook aside. Information in a handbook is designed to help employees. As Dave notes in his long statement, he was up against a “system is designed to frustrate customers.”  Company policy makes lousy communication.


Southwest Airlines, which practically owns the word ‘fun’ pre-empts this kind of negative experience by reversing the process: The employee creates the music, and the passengers sing along!

2 thoughts on “Four lessons after United Airlines faced the music

  1. Pingback: How to fly (through social media turbulence) «

  2. Pingback: Always on, always live |

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