United Sends Message to All Employees Instructing Them to Feel Saddened

In the aftermath of the death of a rabbit expected to become the world’s largest in the hands of United Airlines (bred by a former Playboy Bunny to be sold to a celebrity), United has decided to try to streamline its messaging to customers.

Commercials for Broadway shows in the 1980s usually had audience members interviewed after the show all declaring how amazing the performance was. You had to rush out and see it, because it was truly incredible.

Saturday Night Live parodied this form in a famous 1986 skit advertising The Amazing Alexander. You see, it was a hypnotist’s show. And everyone, one by one, came out of the show and was interviewed. They each recited, “It was much better than Cats! I’m going to see it again and again!” It was offered precisely and in the same dead pan, no matter who you talked to.

United Airlines appears to have hired Amazing Alexander to coach employees on how to deal with the dead rabbit. The inimitable Brian Sumers shares the script that United is asking employees to parrot to customers:

I love the ‘pre-approved responses’ that should be ‘used as a reactive response.’ And that United is telling its employees to be saddened on command.

It could be worse of course, Oscar Munoz could apologize that the rabbit had to be re-accommodated.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very reminiscent of North Koreans being sadden by the loss of their dear leader.

  2. Cliiick baaaaait! I’m no fan of UA but come on! It’s standard practice for the PR shop in a company (or any major organization really) to send out approved, canned responses for employees to provide when there is a highly publicized incident of some sort. It keeps (or attempts to keep) the messaging consistent and also relieves employees of having to think up something on their own, on the spot.

    UA isn’t telling employees to “be saddened” – they’re not required to cry, frown, or mimic a particular emotional state. Employees are just told to use a prepared response that has “We are saddened…” in it. Just like “we regret” or whatever. It’s a trite phrase of polite conversation and pretty typical of a corporate response.

  3. The bureaucratic ghosts of PMUA live on.

    That reads like something from a 1960s Midwest conglomerate that’s using “scientific management.”

  4. The corporate communications function does this type of thing quite commonly. There is nothing out of the ordinary here. I think “news” is being made out of this for no reason other than to malign the United brand. Most companies do this type of thing. I don’t see where they tell them to act “saddened” either. That is an unfair characterization of this. They are simply given ways to handle these questions when raised.

  5. The fact that UA feels their employees aren’t intelligent or wise enough to know how to respond, is telling. Hire the best, you’ll get the best. This is a lack of confidence smack in the face for the whole team, what a disgrace…again.

  6. If they’d just buckled Simon The Rabbit into basic economy on that flight, it might be alive today if it didn’t eat the food, and by now maybe even in receipt of its hand-delivered lost luggage.

  7. The airline’s set of canned responses includes what seems to be a blatant lie. She didn’t decline an autopsy, according to news reports she requested that her deceased animal be returned to her for a post mortem, and then was told that the airline had cremated the rabbit.

  8. @ Gary — what’s even stranger is that responses are not correct and/or misleading. The breeder asked for the animal to be returned to her to be examined by a vet in the UK but United stalled her and then notified it had cremated the bunny. Additionally, there have been reports he died due to freezing.

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