As United Airlines endures widespread criticism and mockery in the United States after a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight Sunday to make room for a United employee, the public relations fallout threatens one of the carrier's most important overseas markets: China.
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Fiscal Times Columnist Liz Peek said video of the passenger being dragged off the aircraft and left bloodied has trended on Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging site. "270 million hits on Weibo and comments because people think it was anti-Chinese," Peek told the FOX Business Network's Stuart Varney. "The fellow looks to be Asian, people are viewing that as discriminatory, and that’s a huge market for United Airlines.”
United prides itself on having the most direct flights to China than other airlines, and has seen its stock consistently drop since the video surfaced online Monday.
“He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent…” United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz said in a statement.
Peek noted that Jet Blue had a similar incident where they left passengers waiting on a tarmac for hours, however the way the two airlines handled their PR nightmares has been very different.
“I mean, I don’t know if he had seen the video, and he talked about re-accommodating the passenger, I think that was his word, I mean, really that is a public relations disaster,” Peek said. “And by the way, when I say he may be shouldn’t lose his job, remember Jet Blue had a similar situation several years ago, kept people waiting on a tarmac for four hours etcetera. They engaged a very aggressive public relations effort, and they did correct their problem. This may be worse than that, I don’t know that he can really kind of bounce back from this, it is horrifying.”