The people in Pepsi’s marketing and PR departments must be relieved, because the internet’s viral outrage is finally being channeled in a different direction. his time the fury is targeted towards United Airlines – a brand that is in full-blown crisis mode after a bloodied passenger was forcibly dragged off a plane, and millions of people witnessed videos of the incident being spread over social media.

denied boarding United Airlines
skeeze / Pixabay

Two days into the crisis, here are some charts that will help give context around what happened, as well as the potential effect on the United brand itself.

United Airlines – Damage Done?

First, let’s take a look at what’s happened to United’s stock price since the incident:

United's Stock Price United Airlines

While some public relations crises have minimal effects on the long-term financial performance of companies, this market reaction is an interesting gauge to consider.

The stock’s lowest point today was -4.3% below the open, which is equal to a nearly $1 billion loss in market capitalization. At that point, it was speculated that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 9% of all outstanding shares of United Continental Holdings Inc., could lose up to $87 million.

The market clearly saw the crisis as creating risk around United’s fundamental business, but the stock has mostly recovered since those intraday lows. That said, if there are reports of top line revenue being affected because of boycotts or other issues, then the incident’s impact on the stock price could easily re-surface.

Social Media Blowback

With today’s interconnected world, a public relations crisis can start with one tweet. Here’s the snowball effect in brand mentions of United that occurred on April 10th:

Brand Mentions on April 10th for United Airlines

Courtesy of: Brandwatch

Here’s another look. This time, it’s a comparison of mentions over the last 21 days.

Brand Mentions over last 21 days for United Airlines

Courtesy of: Brandwatch

Yes, it’s only been about two weeks since United’s last PR crisis, called #LeggingsGate. As you can see, however, the most recent disaster is many times worse in terms of mentions.

With millions of references to the United Airlines brand occurring on social media, here is the split between positive and negative sentiment as of April 10th::

Positive and Negative sentiment for United Airlines

Courtesy of: Brandwatch

Denied Boarding Rates

But how big of a problem is making passengers deboard a plane, in the first place?

The next chart shows denied boarding rates, inclusive of voluntary and involuntary activity, from January to September 2016:

Total Denied Boardings

Data: U.S. Dept of Transportation

United and Delta are the two worst offenders here, with denied boarding rates that are worse than American, Virgin, Alaska, JetBlue, or Southwest.

Lastly, here’s the same figures, except contrasting voluntary vs. involuntary denied boarding rates from January to September 2016:

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Denied Boardings

Data: U.S. Dept of Transportation

Southwest and ExpressJet lead the way with the most involuntary denied boardings, and United Airlines is in the middle of the pack. However, in terms of voluntary denied boardings, United and Delta have much higher rates than other major airlines such as American or Virgin.