- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

You know you have a public relations problem when it goes beyond borders.

United Airlines, already under the gun from angry social media posters who saw its security-guard ousting of a passenger as an uncalled-for manhandling, is now facing fury from Vietnam. Why? Turns out, the guy who was dragged down the aisle, David Dao, was not from China, as initially assumed.

His origins are Vietnam.

And now the Vietnamese are ticked. Good news: the Chinese aren’t any more. Bloomberg on Tuesday had reported: “By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Chinese online anger at United Airlines was running so hot that the hashtag #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlan was receiving 20 million views per hour on the Sina Weibo social network.”

That anger’s now shifted; China’s not so mad anymore. But bad news: It’s like a whole new Vietnam conflict out there in social media land.

“Watching this makes my blood boil,” said Anh Trang Khuya on Facebook, Reuters reported. “I’ll never fly United Airlines.”

Another, Nguyen Khac Huy, wrote: “Boycott United!!! This is excessive! Let’s be loving and united, Vietnamese people!”

Government officials haven’t weighed in, yet. Let’s hope they’re not assembling in the war rooms.

Dao, a doctor who told overbooking airline authorities at Chicago’s O’Hare he didn’t want to give up his seat because he had patients he was traveling to visit, was forcibly removed and dragged by three uniformed guards down the crowded plane aisles. Unfortunately for United, a passenger videotaped the event and it wasn’t long before the images A) went viral and B) caused one of the worst public relations disasters for a company in a while.

The CEO of United didn’t help matters by penning a rather curious response that included a bland apology and a reference to the physical yanking of Dao as a “re-accommodation.”

The story then took another twist and turn after it was revealed Dao had been convicted of multiple felony drug charges in 2004.

Well, apparently the Vietnamese don’t care so much about the drug charges, or United’s apology, and demanded — at least, some outraged social media posters did — the CEO’s figurative head on a plate.

“Dr. Dao didn’t do anything wrong on that flight and that’s the main thing,” wrote Clarence Dung Taylor in a Facebook post, which was then “liked” thousands of times.

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