SHARES in United Airlines have tumbled as outrage to a passenger’s forcible removal from a flight went global and drew condemnation in China.
When the sharemarket opened in the US the stock dropped more than 3 per cent to $69.17.
Investors have fears for United after images of a bloodied passenger being forcibly removed from a flight in Chicago went viral.
The man, who has been identified as 69-year-old grandfather Dr David Dao, who said during the incident that he was being targeted because he is Chinese.
Video of the violent incident posted on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo had been viewed more than 210 million times by late Tuesday.
Many responded with outrage over perceived ethnic bias against the passenger and some called for a boycott of the US-based airline.
“Rubbish!” writer Su Danqing posted on Weibo. “When they were treating this Asian man, they never thought of human rights, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it that way.”
“Damn it! This airline must be boycotted!” said a posting from Liu Bing, a telecommunications company worker.
State-run media fuelled the anger with reports that noted the unidentified victim was an “Asian passenger.”
United does considerable business with Chinese passengers and a consumer boycott could cause serious pain.
United says it operates more non-stop US-China flights to more cities in China than any other airline.
Rowdiness has long been associated with air travel in China, including passengers getting into fights with crew members and a vicious assault last year in which an enraged customer smashed an airline check-in clerk in the head with a brass plaque.
The United incident appeared to feed into such customer frustrations — only this time the tables were turned and the passenger was cast as victim.
United executives struggled to control the public relations damage.
Airline CEO Oscar Munoz has been criticised for his tone-deaf explanation about the incident.
He said Dr Dao had become “disruptive and belligerent” after he was asked to leave the plane to make room for several employees of a partner airline who wanted on the flight.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
When the man refused, officers from the Chicago Aviation Department came in and first tried to reason with him before pulling him from his seat by force and dragging him away, according to another passenger, Tyler Bridges, whose wife later posted a video of the altercation on Facebook.
Dr Dai is reportedly a father-of five, four of his children are also doctors.
The internet responded to the United incident with a bunch of memes ridiculing the airline’s approach, with some saying that rival Southwest Airlines should adopt the following slogan.
This is what you call insightful, timely and clever marketing. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos pic.twitter.com/SrscgTKVFT
— Snober Abbasi (@snobers) April 11, 2017