2017 really hasn't been United's year. While the social media frenzy caused by the airline's dragging 71-year-old David Dao off an overbooked plane was definitely the high water mark of bad PR for the company, United has been facing a continual drip of complaints about its poor customer service.
That is damaging to the company's reputation, of course. But at least so far it hasn't been damaging to anyone's health (excepting Dao's, of course). The latest scandal to hit the airline this week is a brush with actual tragedy.
The story starts pleasantly enough with recently married couple Rachael and Mike Brumfield sitting on the tarmac at New Jersey's Newark Airport waiting for their flight to take off. They were heading to their honeymoon in Venice.
Hey, isn't jet fuel kind of flammable?
Rachael was already nervous, because this was her first transatlantic flight, according to the New York Post, and it certainly didn't help matters when she glanced out her window and saw jet fuel streaming from the plane's wing. Like any freaked-out modern consumer would, Rachael and Mike instantly did two things: stand up and run for the flight attendant and post a pic on Twitter.
Did the crew thank the hawk-eyed couple (though, really, anyone who was half-blind could have seen what was happening)? Of course they didn't. They screamed at the couple to sit down.
"He's like, 'But something's not right,'" Rachael related to Post. "They said, 'Is it an emergency?' He said, 'I don't know,' so they said, 'Go sit down.' They said, 'Everything's normal.'"
Everything was obviously not normal, however, so the couple persisted until the crew finally noticed the gusher of fuel and made a mad dash for the cockpit. Fire trucks soon streamed toward the plane and the flight was canceled.
The inconvenienced honeymooners were initially treated well by United. "The stewardesses who'd dismissed Mike came by to thank him, and the couple were invited into the cockpit, where they were given a glass of champagne and showed the pilots footage they'd taken of the fuel fountain. The flyboys looked seriously shaken by the video," the Post reports.
Is a room for the night too much to ask?
But don't worry--United was soon back to its usual fine form. Despite the airline's reportedly asking the couple to "go easy on them on social media," it still couldn't manage to get the pair rebooked onto a flight until the next day, or accommodate them for the night.
The honeymooners ended up sleeping "on the floor of the baggage claim until 7:30 a.m., when another passenger who did score a hotel voucher spotted them and offered the two heroes the room," notes the Post article.
United hasn't addressed the couple's experience directly, but does seem to dispute that it failed to put up the plane's passengers in a statement: "Our team helped provide customers with hotel accommodations for the night and are working to get them back on their way to Venice today," the company said.
Another passenger offered the couple a limo to their new flight, the Post adds, so at least there's some goodness in the world. But there's not much good news here for United.
"I will never fly United again," Rachael declared.
At this point, who would?