Why people will keep flying United even if they don’t want to

Why people will keep flying United even if they don’t want to
Images: YouTube screen grabs

The video of a bloodied Asian passenger being forcibly pulled from a United Airlines flight sent the company’s stock tumbling Tuesday, prompted calls for the chief executive to step down and sparked a viral campaign in China to boycott the company.

But will the damage last? History suggests it may well not.

As deeply troubling as the video is, analysts said, the emotional fury such incidents generate usually is fleeting, lasting a few days or weeks at most. The reality, they say, is that consumers have long put price, convenience and personal taste ahead of outrage.

And partly because of a rash of recent mergers that left the country with just four major airlines, many customers may not even have much choice. United’s 2010 tie-up with Continental allowed the company to claim more than 50 percent of passenger traffic in Houston and Newark, and to serve 1 in 3 fliers from Washington Dulles International Airport and in San Francisco.

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