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美联航粗鲁待客的沉重代价
United pays heavy price for customer carelessness

来源:FT中文网    2017-04-18 06:30



        His injuries are horrific: concussion, broken nose and two lost teeth. The assault, which left David Dao bloodied, has been seen by millions. Yet what is really shocking is that Dr Dao, who had paid for his ticket, was attacked by people called in by the airline he was travelling with: he was one of its customers.        他受的伤是可怕的:脑震荡、鼻梁骨折,还有两颗牙齿脱落。数百万人目睹了这一让杜成德(David Dao)流血的殴打事件。然而,真正令人震惊的是,掏钱买了机票的杜成德是被他搭乘的这家航空公司找来的人殴打的:他是该航空公司的乘客之一。
        Aggrieved travellers from around the world have seized on the brutal treatment of the 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor as a symbol of all that is wrong with air travel today, from cramped legroom to carry-on fees.        世界各地愤愤不平的旅行者抓住这位69岁的越南裔美籍医生遭受的野蛮待遇,认为这件事象征着当今航空业的所有弊病,从腿部空间狭小,到针对随身行李的收费。
        Dr Dao suffered his injuries at the hands of airport police in Chicago as they forcibly removed him from an overbooked United Continental flight. But by the end of the week, he had emerged as an Everyman figure in a broader corporate morality play about how companies should treat their customers — and what they should say and do when things go badly wrong.        杜成德是在芝加哥机场警察的暴力执法之下受伤的,当时他们强行把他从联合大陆(United Continental)一个超额预订的航班上驱离。但是到了那周的周末,他已在一个更为广义的企业道德问题中成为一名普通人代表,这个问题关乎企业应如何对待客户,以及在发生严重问题时,他们应该说什么,做什么。
        United, for its part, has been widely cast as an example of corporate heartlessness and indifference, issuing tone-deaf statements that deflected legal blame while doing little to prevent brand damage, at first, and then resorting to ever more abject apologies that still failed to assuage public anger. Industry analysts say the US airline may be lucky to avoid even more serious reputational damage.        美联航被普遍列为企业无情与冷漠的典型,一开始,该公司发表了不识时务的声明,推卸法律责任,同时几乎没有采取任何行动来防止品牌损害,接着该公司做出了一个比一个更低声下气的道歉,却仍未能平息公众的愤怒。行业分析师们表示,这家美国航空公司如果能够避免更严重的声誉损害,将算是幸运的。
        “It took the cork out of the bottle of anger at airlines for an increasingly aggravating experience when travelling,” says Allan Adamson, founder of BrandSimple, a branding consultancy. Within hours, passengers were complaining about everything from United seating a toddler between two strangers instead of with their parents, to restrictions on carry-on bags, and the cost of bottled water on discount carriers.        品牌咨询公司BrandSimple创始人阿兰•亚当森(Allan Adamson)表示:“这件事让人们把他们对航空公司的怒火爆发出来,他们早就认为航空公司带来越来越令人不满的出行体验。”不到几个小时,乘客们就开始抱怨各种事情,从美联航把一名幼儿的座位安排在两个陌生人之间(而不是让孩子与父母坐在一起),到对随身行李的限制,乃至廉价航空公司对瓶装水收取的价格。
        A subplot of racism thrown into the mix — with some social media users questioning whether Dr Dao was mistreated because he was Asian — added to the sense that the whole affair was about much more than just an overbooked flight, a public relations crisis, or even the airline industry.        该事件夹杂的种族主义次要情节(一些社交媒体用户质疑:杜成德之所以被粗暴对待,是不是因为他是亚裔?)更让人感觉,整件事不仅关乎一个超额预订航班、一场公关危机,甚至不仅关乎航空业。
        Offence was registered as far away as China, one of the world’s fastest growing major airline markets, and a critical area of expansion for United. Video of the fracas, taken by passengers who can be heard exclaiming in horror as it unfolds, became the top trending item on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (partly because the doctor was initially misidentified as Chinese).        在遥远的中国,人们也对这此事感到愤怒。中国是全球增长最快的大型航空市场之一,也是美联航要扩张业务的一个重要地区。这起争执的视频(视频中可听到拍摄的乘客一边拍一边发出恐惧的尖叫)成为中国版的Twitter新浪微博上最热门的话题(部分原因是这名医生起初被错认为是华人)。
        Dr Dao’s lawyers further stoked emotions when they quoted him as comparing the experience to his escape from Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Being dragged down the aisle was, his lawyer quoted him as saying, “more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced on leaving Vietnam”.        杜成德的律师们进一步煽起了人们的愤怒,他们援引杜成德的话,把这段经历与1975年他在西贡沦陷期间逃离越南相提并论。他的律师援引他的话说,他被人从飞机走道拖离的遭遇“比他当年逃离越南还要可怕和悲惨”。
        The lawyer went on to tell a press conference that he hoped Dr Dao, who is preparing legal action against United, would spearhead a consumer revolt against corporate mistreatment of customers — not just on flights but at rental car counters, in grocery stores, and even at the doctor’s office. He said that airlines routinely “bully” passengers.        这位律师接着在新闻发布会上表示,他希望正准备对美联航采取法律行动的杜成德,将引发一场针对企业虐待客户的消费者反抗,不仅仅是在航班上,也要针对租车柜台、食品商店甚至医生的诊所。这位律师表示,航空公司经常“欺凌”乘客。
        Saying sorry        说对不起
        Last Sunday started as just another typical day in America’s airports, where tens of thousands of passengers are involuntarily bumped off aircraft every year, according to federal statistics. Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was full and ready to take off. But United needed four extra seats on the flight to transport staff to crew an aircraft in another city. Compensation was offered but no one gave up their seat. Four passengers were chosen at random; three stepped off the aircraft but Dr Dao refused. Airport police were called, tempers rose and then snapped. The rest will forever be history — on Twitter.        2017年4月9日开始时,就像美国机场又一个普通的周日,根据联邦统计数据,美国机场每年会有数万乘客在非志愿的情况下被赶下飞机。从芝加哥飞往路易斯维尔的3411航班已满座,准备起飞。但美联航需要再搭载4名员工,让他们到另一座城市执行一个航班。美联航介绍了补偿方案,但没有人愿意放弃座位。美联航随机选择了4名乘客,有3人下了飞机,但杜成德拒绝了。于是美联航找来机场警察,双方情绪变得激动起来,随后失控。之后发生的事情已被载入Twitter上的“史册”。
        Crisis communications experts immediately began dissecting the cadaver of United’s inept public relations response: for nearly 24 hours the carrier seemed blind to the fact that it had any responsibility for what had happened, referring questions to law enforcement — doubtless on the advice of its lawyers.        危机沟通专家立即开始剖析美联航公关回应笨拙的败笔:在近24小时的时间里,这家航空公司似乎无视自己有责任的事实,而是把一切询问都踢给执法部门——无疑是在听从律师的建议。
        “In crisis communications the legal team has always had a really heavy hand. But no matter what the settlement would have been with this gentleman, it would be a bargain given the hit they are taking to their brand equity,” says Chris Allieri, founder of Mulberry and Astor, a PR consultancy.        公关咨询公司Mulberry and Astor创始人克里斯•艾列里(Chris Allieri)表示:“在危机沟通中,法律团队总是会采取刻板的立场。但是,鉴于这起事件对品牌资产的打击,不管航空公司与这位男士达成什么样的和解方案,都是代价低廉的。”
        Late on day two, Oscar Munoz, chief executive, made a much mocked first stab at a mea culpa: apologising only for “re-accommodating” passengers — not for having one dragged down the aisle with blood dripping from his mouth. That night he reassured staff, in an internal memo, that they had followed procedure. But the digital outrage quickly exploded with United Airlines mentioned nearly 3m times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the first 48 hours after news of the incident broke, according to Brandwatch, a social media analytics company.        事件发生后的第二天晚间,美联航首席执行官奥斯卡•穆诺兹(Oscar Munoz)作出了广受嘲讽的首次认错尝试:只对“重新安置”乘客道歉,而没有提到把一个嘴角流着血的乘客从走道拖离。当晚他在一份内部备忘录中安抚员工称,他们遵循了处理此类情况的既定程序。但数字媒体上的愤怒迅速爆发,根据社交媒体分析公司Brandwatch的数据,在这起事件被报道后的48小时内,在Facebook、Twitter和Instagram上,“美联航”被提到了近300万次。
        Hashtags proliferated, including #BoycottUnited, #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos and #FlyTheFriendlySkies, mocking United’s advertising slogan. By Wednesday, 71 per cent of online mentions of United expressed a negative sentiment, compared with a 91 per cent positive reading on Sunday, Brandwatch analysis found.        相关标签激增,包括#抵制美联航、#美联航新座右铭,以及借用美联航广告语嘲讽的#飞向友好的天空。Brandwatch的分析师们发现,到了周三,网上提及美联航的言论有71%表达了负面情绪,相比之下周日的言论有91%是积极的。
        It was only three days after the flight that Mr Munoz appeared on Good Morning America, the widely watched US television programme, to say “this will never happen again on a United Airlines flight”, adding “we’re not going to put a law enforcement official [on an aircraft] to take them off. To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger? We can’t do that.” He felt “shame and embarrassment” at the way Dr Dao was treated, he added.        只是在航班的整整3天后,穆诺兹才姗姗来迟地在收视率较高的美国电视节目《早安美国》(Good Morning America)中表示,“美联航的航班上再也不会发生这种事”,他接着说,“我们不会再让执法人员把他们带离飞机。驱离一个已经预订并支付机票,且已经就座的乘客?我们不能这么做”。他补充说,他对杜成德受到的待遇感到“耻辱和尴尬”。
        United offered to reimburse everyone on the flight the cost of their ticket. But all this was condemned as “too little, too late” by those who advise companies on how not to get into a mess like this in the first place.        美联航向该航班上的所有乘客提供相当于机票价格的补偿。但那些为企业出谋划策、力求让企业根本不陷入此类烂摊子的人表示,这一切都“太少而且太迟了”。
        Hindsight often plays a role in these condemnations, but even seasoned online reputation consultants were surprised by how quickly the vitriol spread: “This is what I have done for a living for over a decade and I could not have predicted this. There’s a ferocity and velocity to this response that was not predictable,” says Michael Fertik, founder of Reputation.com, an online reputation management company.        这些谴责往往带有马后炮的元素,但就连最老练的在线声誉咨询顾问也对这种批评如此迅速传播感到意外:在线声誉管理公司Reputation.com的创始人迈克尔•费蒂克(Michael Fertik)表示:“我以此谋生已有10多年,而我预料不到这种情况。这种回应的猛烈程度和速度是无法预测的。”
        Financial impact        财务影响
        Investors appeared taken off guard too, with United’s share price showing little impact on the first day after the crisis broke. The shares dipped sharply on Tuesday — at one stage wiping $1bn off its market value — but by the end of the week its share price had recovered much of its value. On Thursday Jim Corridore, airline analyst at CFRA, reiterated his strong buy recommendation on the airline. “With United finally saying the right things, we think that this situation can start to recede and allow investors to focus on industry fundamentals, which are quite good.”        投资者似乎也有些措手不及,在危机发生后的第一天,美联航的股价几乎没受影响。到了周二,股价急剧下跌,一度使该公司市值蒸发10亿美元,但到了周五,其股价已收复大部分失地。周四,CFRA航空分析师吉姆•科里多雷(Jim Corridore)重申了强力推荐买入美联航的建议。“鉴于美联航终于在正确表态,我们认为这种局面有望开始缓解,让投资者聚焦于相当不错的行业基本面。”
        Part of that can probably be explained by the fact that Mr Munoz, a well-liked figure who attracted public sympathy when he underwent a heart transplant weeks after taking over the struggling carrier, has been credited for having done much to put the company on a path to recovery.        这在一定程度上很可能是因为这样一个事实,即穆诺兹因大力推动美联航走上复苏之路而备受赞誉。穆诺兹是一个受人喜欢的人物,他在接手这家陷入困境的航空公司数周后做了心脏移植手术,引发公众的同情。
        United, which has struggled to deliver the operational performance and profits demanded by Wall Street since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, was the fourth-largest US carrier by passenger volume last year. Under Mr Munoz its share price has risen from a low of $37.75 last year to $69.07 on Thursday.        美联航在2010年与美国大陆航空(Continental Airlines)合并后,难以拿出华尔街所要求的业绩和利润。按去年的客运量计算,该公司是美国第四大航空公司。在穆诺兹的领导下,美联航股价从去年37.75美元的低点升至4月13日的69.07美元。
        Mr Munoz also struck joint labour contracts with flight attendants and mechanics, a crucial step in integrating United with Continental and one that analysts hope will improve operating performance.        穆诺兹还与空乘和机修人员达成了联合劳动合同,这是整合美联航与大陆航空的关键步骤,分析师预计,此举将会改善业绩。
        Ironically, he was even awarded PR Week’s “communicator of the year” award exactly a month before the incident. “Since taking on CEO duties in September 2015, Munoz has transformed the fortunes of the airline, galvanised staff, and set the business on a smoother course — all in the context of a tremendously difficult time personally,” the publication said, applauding him for being a sure touch on the shop floor and understanding “the value of communication”.        具有讽刺意味的是,就在这起事件发生一个月前,穆诺兹甚至获得了《公关周刊》(PR Week)的“年度沟通大师”殊荣。该杂志表示:“自2015年9月出任首席执行官以来,穆诺兹扭转了美联航的命运,鼓舞了员工士气,并让经营进入更为顺畅的轨道——所有这些都是在他个人经历极度艰难的时期完成的”。《公关周刊》还称赞他接地气,明白“沟通的价值”。
        Soon after that, matters started to unravel, when the carrier faced a public backlash for refusing to allow two female passengers to board wearing leggings because they carried passes issued to family of staff that specify a strict dress code. Then came flight 3411, flashing pictures of a bloodied and dazed Dr Dao on millions of mobile phone screens around the world. Politicians weighed in, calling for an investigation. Even President Donald Trump commented.        不久之后问题就开始爆发,最初是美联航拒绝两名穿着紧身裤的女性乘客登机,引发公众反弹——这两人携带着美联航发给员工家属的通票,而这类通票有严格的着装要求。随后就是3411航班,杜成德嘴角流血且神志不清的视频在世界各地数以百万计的手机上流传。政客们出面呼吁展开调查。就连唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)总统也发表了评论。
        United is scarcely the first company to have faced a ferocious social media firestorm. Just last week Pepsi was forced to withdraw an advert because of criticism on social media that it was racially and politically insensitive.        美联航并非是首家面临社交媒体风暴的公司。就在前不久,百事可乐(Pepsi)被迫撤回一则广告,原因是有人在社交媒体上指责该广告在种族和政治问题上不够敏感。
        But Mr Fertik says of the United incident: “I think this one has legs. The next wave could come because there’s enough sustained interest now that Congress could have hearings, ask former customers about their bad experiences, bring in former employees.”        但是Reputation.com的费蒂克在谈到美联航事件时表示:“我认为这场风波会有后劲。下一波可能接踵而至,因为现在有足够的持续兴趣,以至于美国国会可能举行听证会,请来乘客讲述之前的糟糕经历,并传唤前雇员。”
        Still, many airline analysts doubt that disgruntled passengers will put their brand loyalty ahead of their wallets, and boycott United.        话虽如此,许多航空业分析师怀疑不满的乘客会把品牌忠诚度置于钱包之前,开始抵制美联航。
        “How long will this last? Until the next airfare sale,” says George Hamlin, veteran airline industry consultant.        资深的航空业咨询顾问乔治•哈姆林(George Hamlin)表示:“这场风波将会持续多久?直至下一次机票促销。”
        He is betting that digital outrage will be as quick to dissipate as it was to flare up in the first place, especially in a world where airline consolidation has left many passengers with few choices of how to get from A to B, cheaply, comfortably, and most of all in one piece.        他打赌称,网上的不满将和最初风波乍起一样迅速消散,尤其是航空公司整合导致许多乘客没有多少选择,可以让他们廉价、舒适而且(最重要的是)安然无恙地从A地到达B地。
        Additional reporting by Charles Clover        查尔斯•克洛弗(Charles Clover)补充报道
                
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