Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You know the story.

Everyone knows the story.

United Airlines dragged a seated passenger off a plane, smashed his face in, broke his nose and didn't even apologize to him until after Twitter was ready to rumble.

You might imagine, then, that consumer perception of the brand is at the lowest level of any brand in world history. Or, at least, of any brand in American history. Or, at the very least, of any airline in American history.

It's not.

It's not even the lowest of any airline in the last year.

The YouGov BrandIndex rolling analysis of consumer perception shows that United's score has dropped from a 3 to a -28.

This isn't healthy, of course. It's a far greater drop than occurred after United's last scandal -- Leggingsgate -- just a couple of weeks ago.

It's also the lowest United has been at in the last 10 years.

But as the research company's Ted Marzilli explains, it's only "the steepest drop a domestic airline has taken since last August."

Since last August.

What happened then? Delta Air Lines enjoyed a spectacular computer failure that rendered vast numbers of its passengers insensate with rage. This led it to plummet from a 9 score to a -33.

It seems that when more passengers personally experience a failure, that's when consumer perception takes an even bigger dive. In the United dragging case, we just experience rage. You can't trust rage.

Oddly, however, Delta's next disaster -- which happened only last week -- didn't send its perception numbers too low at all. Only slightly into the negative areas.

Might this be because too many people believed that the cause of thousands of canceled flights was weather, when even Delta itself conceded -- far too late -- that its cabin crew tracking systems failed?

And as for purchase intent, Delta's recovered within days last August.

It's likely, then, that United's won't be affected too much either. Yes, when you have a genuine choice and the price difference is negligible, you might choose anything but United.

But how often does that happen when the airline business is essentially an oligopoly?

Published on: Apr 13, 2017
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