But some of United’s competitors got in the game, too, particularly those Middle Eastern airlines that have been aggressively muscling into the international air travel business in recent years.
Within 24 hours of the video going viral, Dubai-based Emirates Airlines had a new ad up, going straight after Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United’s parent company.
Fly the friendly skies with a real airline. pic.twitter.com/wE5C5n6Lvn
— Emirates airline (@emirates) April 11, 2017
If that attack ad seemed a little personal, it’s because it was.
Munoz’s comment that Gulf airlines “aren’t airlines” was made just last month at an aviation summit, in which he warned that the U.S. public would be outraged when it discovered the full extent of the subsidies Middle Eastern airlines are getting, and the job losses he says that will cause at U.S. airlines.
(For their part, Emirates and other Gulf airlines deny they're getting an unfair leg up. And little did Munoz know last month that public outrage would instead be targeted at United itself.)
Qatar Airways joined the fray, taking a more subtle approach than Emirates, though just barely. The airline tweeted a photoshopped pic of the download page for its app, stating the app “does not support drag and drop. We take care of our passengers as we unite them with their destination.”
We’re united in our goal to always accommodate our passengers, even with our app updates. pic.twitter.com/1K3q76qOp6
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) April 12, 2017
Royal Jordanian Airlines got in on the action as well, tweeting a no-smoking sign with the caption that “drags on our flights are strictly prohibited.”
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) April 10, 2017
Yes, the puns are flying fast and loose, and United is scrambling to contain the damage.
In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday, Munoz issued his third apology over the matter in as many days, addressing the man who was dragged of the United flight -- Dr. David Dao of Elizabethtown, Kentucky -- as well as the passengers who witnessed the event.
Munoz’ first apology on Monday, in which he regretted that some passengers on the flight had to be “re-accommodated,” was criticized as tone-deaf.
Munoz on Tuesday issued another apology, this time saying the airline would be changing its policies regarding overbooked flights.
He expanded on that Wednesday, vowing that such an incident “will never happen again on a United flight.” Munoz said law enforcement would not be involved in these disputes in the future.