Top 7 Brand Disasters of 2018 and They're All from the Airlines

Every year, I chronicle the brand disasters and brand scandals that did the most damage in the recent months. Previous years have drawn from multiple industries but in 2018 it’s all about the airlines. Here’s the worst of the worst:

1. Bow-Ow (United)

A French bulldog died in April when a United Airlines flight attendant insisted that his owner stow the animal in an overhead bin. The airline tried to position it as a regrettable but unusual mistake. Then the Washington Post pointed out that 75% of all airline animal deaths occur on United Flights. Oof.

2. Deep Doo-Doo (Delta)

Airplanes are not known for their fresh scent but a Delta passenger in October, after smelling something funky, reached under his seat to discover the digested outcome of either an incontinent service animal or a sick old man (depending on the story). According to the Washington Post, rather than have the flight cleaned, they handed HIM some paper towels and a mini-bottle of gin.

3. Whoops, Your Bias is Showing (Delta)

Well-regarded obstetrician and gynecologist Tamika Cross (who happens to be a black female) volunteered to help an unconscious passenger on an October Delta flight. According to the Washington Post, she dismissively told “Oh no, sweetie, put [your] hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”

4. Staycation (American)

When a big airline cancels a flight, they typically book the stranded passengers on other flights, even if those flights are on other airlines. In October, however, The Detroit News reported that American Airlines now directs its booking agents to avoid using other airlines unless the passenger is going to a funeral, a wedding or would be forced to stay overnight in a hotel.

5. Race to the Bottom (Ryanair)

You’d think that after a passenger starts screaming racist slurs at another passenger, an airline would 1) intervene and 2) throw the racist off the flight. However, as The Guardian reported in October, bargain-basement Ryanair elected instead to move the victim to another seat and pretend it never happened. Needless to say, some passengers videoed and posted the October incident.

6. Abracadabra (Primera Air)

While one might expect to see a disappearing act during a stage revue, at an airport not so much. But that’s what happened when Primera Air announced they were out of money and “poof” all their scheduled flights suddenly disappeared in October. As the New York Times reported, even the gate agents didn’t have a clue as to what had just happened.

7. Class Acts (American, Delta, Southwest, United)

Things looked pretty bad for the industry as a whole when Forbes reported that “airlines failed to deliver nearly a third of their customers to their desired destinations at, or even reasonably close to their scheduled arrival times.” Then November saw a class action lawsuit filed against American, Delta, Southwest, and United for alleged price-fixing.

Carol Humphreys