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People's Perception Of United Airlines Has Hit A 10-Year Low

Footage of a man being dragged off a flight sent United's consumer perception levels plummeting this week, according to a YouGov survey.

Posted on April 13, 2017, at 1:47 p.m. ET

Getty Images/Scott Olson

United Airlines has hit a 10-year low in consumer perception, according to a daily tracking poll that surveys the public image of thousands of brands around the world.

The company's reputation score, as measured by YouGov BrandIndex, had fallen to -28 by Wednesday, meaning 28% more people have heard negative stories about the company than positive ones. On Saturday, before a video emerged showing a man being violently removed from an overbooked United flight, the company's score was +3.

"United was really insensitive and callous in this particular case," YouGov BrandIndex CEO Ted Marzilli told BuzzFeed News. "The initial response defending or supporting the policy I think was really tone deaf."

United's drop in consumer perception marks the steepest decline for a US airline since last August, when Delta's computers failed, causing thousands of cancelled flights. It took Delta's reputation score only a few days to recover from that crisis.

YouGov BrandIndex / Via

The forced removal from United's flight was the second misstep by the company in recent weeks. In March, United stopped three girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings, which is not permitted for passengers on "company benefit travel." While it only took United a week to recover from that incident, Marzilli said multiple missteps create an amplifier effect in consumer perception.

The incidents may put United at a disadvantage with customers who are choosing between flights that are equal in price and convenience, he said.

"People still have a choice," said Marzilli. Despite the impact, "It’s just not going to be the sort of thing where people stop flying United tomorrow because of this particular incident."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.