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United Airlines Mentions Exceed 1.5 Million in a Day As Passenger Dragged From Plane Trending

By Gemma Joyce on April 11th 2017

United Airlines has seen a largely negative reaction on social media after footage surrounding a man being dragged from one of its planes went viral on Monday.

Mentions soared

United was recently embroiled in a storm of negative tweets after a passenger tweeted comments about passengers being blocked from boarding a plane because of their attire (you can read about that here), however, the reaction to the removed passenger has been far more significant.

On 26th March, when “LeggingsGate” saw United Airlines hitting the headlines, we tracked around 135k mentions of the brand in one day across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. On the 10th of April, as the footage circulated around the internet, the brand was mentioned over 1.5 million times. Comparing the two peaks (#leggingsgate on 26th March and April 10th’s spike), there were around 1000% more mentions.

United Airlines

If you want an idea of what those comments contained, we took a look at sentiment-categorized mentions.

United had enjoyed a couple of days with an overwhelmingly positive sentiment – April 8th and 9th saw more than 91% of all sentiment-categorized mentions register as positive. The positivity stemmed from a tweet where United offered a free flight to the individual currently seeking 18 million retweets to get Wendy’s chicken nuggets free for a year.

However, the 10th April saw 69% of mentions categorized as negative, driven by the story surrounding the passenger being removed from the plane.

United Airlines


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What happened?

Passengers on United Airlines flight 3411 filmed as another passenger was forced off the airplane after it was overbooked.

The shocking visuals circulated quickly, with a tweet containing a video of the scene hitting the front page of Reddit early on Monday.

United Airlines

Here’s the tweet driving the main topic – please be warned that it contains fairly shocking footage:

Mentions climbed very quickly as it turned into one of the biggest stories of the day on social media.

United Airlines

Meanwhile, the top hashtags included the flight number and a number of boycott-related terms.

United Airlines

United Airlines’ CEO responded to the story with the following statement.

The power of images

Senior PR Data Analyst at Brandwatch, Kellan Terry, has a theory on why the mentions took off so dramatically.

The reason for the larger backlash this time comes down to visuals. The circulating video of a passenger being forcibly removed from the flight has caused mentions to soar. Without the video, even if fellow passengers had tweeted about the incident (without images and video), this happening wouldn’t have received the attention it has gotten.

Are you a journalist looking to cover our data? Email us at react@brandwatch.com for more information.


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Gemma Joyce

@GLJoyce

Gemma is the social data journalist heading up Brandwatch React. As well as being first with pop culture news, Gemma loves pizza, politics, and Angry Birds.

  • sometimestheyaresomewhatright

    In a 200 person market research survey executed yesterday, United determined that $800 was not a sufficient incentive for customers to leave a flight they were already on for a later flight. How United intends to use this information was unknown at press time.

  • Bradley Monk

    This was also confirmed in a live scenario when nobody volunteered to leave an actual flight for $800. Perhaps United was testing whether a video of someone being forcibly dragged off the plane and bloodied was enough to change people’s minds about the $800.

    “Next time take the $800”

    – United Airlines

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