You’ve seen the video: Airport security officers drag a screaming man off a United Airlines flight in Chicago. The passenger was one of four on a flight to Louisville who the airline chose to rebook on another flight after it discovered it didn’t have enough seats for crew members who needed to fly.
The video sparked widespread outrage. United’s stock plummeted, and it prompted calls for a boycott (though many people will find avoiding the carrier difficult, even if they want to, according to the Washington Post). A tone-deaf response from CEO Oscar Munoz didn’t help matters. In an email to employees, he dismissed the passenger as “disruptive and belligerent.” He’s since tried to strike a more conciliatory tone.
What savvy travelers already knew — and what everyone else is quickly learning — is you don’t have a lot of rights when you fly. United and other airlines can boot you off the plane at their discretion. But in an era of short tempers and easy-to-access recording devices, choosing to exercise that power can blow up in an airline’s face. United might have transported its flight crew to Kentucky — at the expense of a big PR mess.
Perhaps the viral video will cause the suits in the United C-suite to have a change of heart and decide to start treating passengers with a bit more respect. But don’t count on it. The damage United feels from the incident might be only temporary. It would be far from the only company to treat customers like crap and get away with it.
Check out these 10 other examples of badly behaving businesses, most of which are still thriving despite some well-publicized incidents of screwing over regular folks.