Layovers are rarely fun, but they still beat flying United.
According to a group of surveys issued by the polling group Morning Consult, customers presented with a choice between flying United and flying with a competitor still picked the competing flight more than half the time, even if it came with a layover that doubled the total travel time.
A 2-hour, 44-minute flight on United was viewed as less desirable than a 5-hour, 37-minute trip on American, 3-hour layover included, for 57% of respondents, the poll found.
Prices for both flights stayed equal.
United’s public-relations nightmare began with the April 10 video showing a doctor named David Dao getting dragged off his flight, after Dao refused to give up his seat. Dao suffered multiple injuries from the incident. The resulting video went viral, and Dao’s lawyer has since stated his client will need reconstructive surgery for the injuries.
On social media, people have responded to the incident with calls to boycott United. The brand-image site YouGov finds United’s reputation with customers has fallen considerably. On a scale of -100 to 100, with 0 being neutral, the airline’s image fell from 1.8 to -64 in just eight days.
Morning Consult’s polls reflect that sea change.
Among people who had heard of the United incident, 79% of respondents picked American over United when the flight details were identical. It was only when flying American became considerably more expensive — $270 vs. $204 — that 51% of people picked United.
That contrasts with the poll introducing a 3-hour layover, in which most people still picked American. Evidently, respondents valued an expense of time differently than one of dollars.
However, one poll that included a layover and a more expensive flight when using American still saw 44% of people avoiding United.
Either those people really like American, or United still has quite the uphill battle to repair its image.
United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.