United Airlines has taken a few public relations hits lately. Two weeks ago it was over two girls who were barred from boarding a United flight because they were wearing leggings. Then it was the passenger who was physically — and violently — removed from a flight Sunday when he refused to give up his seat for a crew member.
After Sunday’s incident went viral, some of the airline’s foreign rivals couldn’t resist taking a shot at the U.S. carrier.
“We are here to keep you #united,” Royal Jordanian tweeted Monday. “Dragging is strictly prohibited.”
Emirates Airline followed Tuesday with a video quoting United chief executive Oscar Munoz badmouthing Middle Eastern airlines in a trade publication last month.
“Those airlines aren’t airlines,” Munoz is quoted saying in the March 2 article.
So the Emirates video goes on to say: “Well Mr. Munoz, according to TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, not only are we a real airline … we are the best airline.”
Then video then mocks United’s “Fly the Friendly Skies” slogan with this kicker: “Fly the friendly skies … this time for real.”
It’s not the first time the airlines have tweaked the United States and their rivals. The jabs started with President Trump’s travel bans. Royal Jordanian and Emirates are impacted by a ban that prohibits laptops, tablets and other electronic devices in cabins on U.S.-bound flights from several Muslim-majority nations. The airlines also are affected by a ban that prohibits people from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. That ban is on hold pending legal challenges. When the electronics ban was announced, theories circulated that it could be in retaliation against the foreign carriers, who some U.S. airlines say have an unfair competitive advantage.
It was with that announcement that the foreign carriers started their tongue-in-cheek social media campaigns. The United incident offered them another opportunity.
What we know is the trolling was real.
The Royal Jordanian tweet was retweeted more than 3,600 times Monday.
Reaction from the Twittervese ranged from “Wow, trolling other airlines is poor form. Wait til you have your own incident” to “All is fare in ad wars” and “you guys are awesome.”