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

It's been almost a year. 

A whole, big almost-a-year since United Airlines got police to drag Dr. David Dao, a paying passenger, down the aisle of a plane, his face bloodied.

So, to get ahead of this anniversary -- it's April 9, in case you'd erased it from your being -- United Airlines spoke to the Chicago Business Journal's Lewis Lazare, to explain how it's so much better these days.

The airline called the Dao incident "a defining moment."

But was it?

What seemed to define the airline more was when its CEO Oscar Muñoz's first reaction was to blame Dao.

Indeed, it took him quite a while to offer anything that resembled a credible apology.

Still, let's try and be forgiving. This is America, not American Airlines, where they celebrate the glory of the unforgiving fare.

United did make efforts to eliminate overbooking. It now says it's reduced passenger-bumping by 94 percent since May 1 last year.

And then there's the whole compensation thing. How can you not think the airline is a newly-generous entity when it recently gave one flyer $10,000 in vouchers to get off a flight?

The airline also outlined Core4, United's program to train its employees around four essences: Safe, Caring, Dependable and Efficient.

What might the four core values have been before? Bored, Frustrated, Angry and Gimme-The-Money?

The fact that such simple facets of customer service need to be impressed upon staff shows that there was something very, very wrong at the airline.

And are we really to believe that things are so much better?

As United tried to be safe, caring, dependable and efficient, it also tried to offer a new bonus scheme to its employees that, well, took away their guaranteed bonus and offered them a lottery instead.

It made them feel unsafe and uncared for.

It made them believe they can't depend on management and that, even if they're efficient, their bonuses will be taken away.

Yes, in face of unsurprising derision and scorn, United paused the bonus lottery.

But it's this dichotomy that seems to still course through United.

The airline seems to loathe the bad publicity and claims to be getting better. 

But, in an era of little competition, it doesn't have that much of an incentive to do so.

Indeed, its Basic Economy (aka Sub-Cattle Class) rules have been the most draconian of all because, as the airline has admitted, the purpose is for you to hate it so much that you'll spend more than you used to.

Many airlines' first priority is to make money. Their second priority is to make even more money.

Which means their idea of getting better is very different from that of, say, their customers.

Published on: Apr 5, 2018
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