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Airline Apologizes for ‘Faggot’-Dropping Employee With Lame Tweets

united bad pr

United Airlines' PR people: robots?

What’s a multinational corporation with over $16 billion in yearly revenue to do after one of their prized employees calls a gay couple “faggots”? Probably just like, ignore reporters’ requests for comments and issue boilerplate “apologies” to concerned citizens via Twitter, right?

As you can see at left, United’s sad excuse of an apology is: “We don’t tolerate discrimination & are take the complaint seriously. We are reviewing internally & aren’t able to corroborate.” Corroborate? They’re basically saying, “We know we’re an accessory to a crime, but we just, uh, don’t want to deal with it yet.”

They also don’t want to put any of their huge PR resources toward working with the press. Queerty searched high and low for a spokesperson phone number or corporate communications e-mail, but we found nothin’. So this reporter shot off an e-mail to the best thing we could find: customerrelations@united.com, asking for a comment by noon today—no answer. You should do the same, and ask that they at least issue a public apology to Billy Canu and his partner; it’s all the couple is asking for.

We haven’t seen any other news outlets with any real responses from United, either. A local news station in Denver managed to squeeze this statement out of them yesterday:

“United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” said airline spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. “We have received this complaint and are reviewing, and we will reach out to the customer directly.”

In other news, an airline we thought was more gay-friendly is filing for bankruptcy, so maybe being anti-gay is a thought-out business strategy for United. Hell, the f-bomb-dropping manager even boasts on his LinkedIn profile that he was honored by CEO Glen Tilton for “Excellence in Customer Service 2010.”

Something tells us he won’t be getting that award this year.

UPDATE (2:25pm): After we asked if they’d gotten an apology from United yet, Billy Canu tells us: “No – we haven’t heard anything yet besides the stock answer everyone has received. I assume they just hope it dies out. Hard to believe that an apology is to much to ask.”

By:           Evan Mulvihill
On:           Nov 29, 2011
Tagged: , , , ,
  • 33 Comments
    • the crustybastard
      the crustybastard

      How many gays need to hear the employee’s insult before management is satisfied it actually happened?

      Evidently more than two.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • torrentprime
      torrentprime

      It’s not an apology; it’s a “we’re looking into it” response. You’re upset they didn’t customize tweets to individuals upset over what right now is still only an accusation? *eyeroll*

      Nov 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris

      Exactly. This is still only an accusation. And honestly I am starting to believe more and more he did not call them that. The fact that he received a customer service award makes it seem even less plausible. I work in banking and some of the shit people have claimed I have said to them (cussed at them, hung up on them, rude to them, called them names) just to try and get me in trouble or fired because they couldn’t get their way. So I find it pretty ridiculous that queerty is already labeling this guy a hate monger and a criminal(really?) is sad. Also really nice posting his linked in profile. That wasn’t a bitchy move at all.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Justin
      Justin

      So, you searched high and low for this?

      media.relations@united.com

      Nov 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Spike
      Spike

      @Chris: Good point. Imagine the things the airline employees have been accused of by passengers hoping to get an upgrade to business or first class, and is 100% fabricated. Not saying that is what happened here, just that it probably happens on a regular basis.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DonsterNYC
      DonsterNYC

      I took the writer’s advise to contact United. I send the following:

      I guess things haven’t changed in United Airlines over the past 15 years. After all these years, in your eyes the customer is still not right. I encountered the same wall of bricks when I complained to you about a flight attendant who struck a traveling companion and then refused to give me her name. The captain refused to give me her name and the representative greeting the plane was no help either. I never received any response whatsoever to my complaint. In Mr. Canu’s incident, the accused employee used a completely reprehensible slur in his response. I wonder, had the employee used the N word in a response to a person of color, would your company be so forgiving. The F word he used is no less offensive than the N word. Get your heads out of the clouds!

      Nov 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Evan Mulvihill
      Evan Mulvihill

      @Spike @Chris: The guys were already preferred customers and assumed they were allowed in the lounge. Maybe there were some technicalities about not letting them in that they took too queenily. Whatever. They have no reason to try to bring United down, and no reason to lie about Rodney Hill calling them “faggots” under his breath.

      I bet United’s response would have been a bit swifter if the N-word were used by a white employee to a black customer, or if any other number of racial slurs were used to any number of minorities.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Larry
      Larry

      hey chris…have you ever flown united? not exactly service oriented…and it gets worse in business because those jobs go to crew with seniority (who seem to be burnt out)

      Nov 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jonathan
      Jonathan

      Calling someone a faggot can be as humiliating and destructive as calling someone black “n*****.” I’d like to see the GLBT community organize itself in a nationwide boycott of United until it agrees to, among other things, make sensitivity training requisite for all its staff. United’s pathetic response to this serious incident involving an attack by a company staff member is inexcusable. The company’s response only reinforces the discrimination and hate we seek and must eradicate from this country, the same hate that drives young boys to kill themselves. This incident is not a small thing and as a corporate leader, United’s lack of concern is appalling for everyone in the GLBT community. Our only power is our money and how we spend it. Benefitting enormously from Federal support and our tax dollars, United must disavow the act itself and the pathology that supports it in terms which are material and significant. I’d hope someone better-placed than myself would initiate an internet based response which leverages Twitter and Facebook. An assault on one of our own, private citizens and paying customers, in a public place by any company employee in the U.S., let alone a United Airlines employee, is a disgrace and a assault on all of us. What would Rev. Al Sharpton do in a similar situation?

      Nov 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ChrisM
      ChrisM

      Queerty, do you know what the word “corroborate” means? They aren’t saying “we know we’re an accessory to a crime…,” they’re saying the exact opposite.

      Which is still total bullshit. They’re “inability” to corroborate it probably goes something like this…

      Airline: Did you call those faggots faggots?
      Employee: No.
      Airline: Ok then.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Storm
      Storm

      I’m frequently amazed at how quick gay men are to call other gay people liars and to disbelieve stories of discrimination. These two customers were Gold Club members. No one has disputed that. They were denied access to United’s Gold Club Lounge. When they asked why, they could not get an answer. They say, rather, they got rude treatment. And -still- apparently no access to the Gold Club Lounge.
      Discrimination against gay passengers is still an old story in the airline industry. Not much has changed there, and corporate “anti-discrimination policies” don’t mean very much to an individual employee on the job who thinks the Front Office won’t find out or won’t investigate abuse charges. We’ve seen airline discrimination in action more than once in the past few months: the Southwest pilot’s anti-gay rant with his microphone on, and Southwest’s (again) treatment of actress Leisha Haily. Now these two gay United customers. There are a lot more stories like this. You’re willfully blind if you think everybody is crying wolf.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CBRad
      CBRad

      @Storm: I don’t know what happened in this case, but I don’t think gay men are quick to call other gay men liars, at all. If anything, they err the other way. Look how many hokey (from the beginning) claims of gaybashing had gay men screaming for blood and anyone who dared question the gaybashing story was called “self-hating.” Then the cases would turn out to be total frauds. I’d prefer to see gay men (and all people) always know it’s better to withhold judgement until more facts become available.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 7:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eric in Chicago
      Eric in Chicago

      UNITED has been terrible to their customers (and employees) for years. A revolving door of incompetent CEOs who have gutter the Unions and taken away most the benefits of their employees. As a result the employees have stopped providing the best customer service to the customers. Also UNITED a long time ago decided to reward the business traveler who spends lots of money per year but doesn’t actually pay out of pocket for their tickets while treating their coach passengers (who actually pay out of pocket) like crap. I know lots of people who work for UNITED and they are good people but the Company is a complete mess. It needs to be overhauled and concentrate on the employees and the customers. Sometimes when you become the market leader you become to big, slothful and arrogant. Just like the American Car companies did in the 70’s and look what happened to them.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chadboy
      Chadboy

      I think that is the correct response from the airline until they can prove the word was actually said. I find it hard to believe that a man who was honored by the airline in 2010 would insult customers. Let’s not forget that the gays said that basically all the staff was rude to them. This is hard to believe as well. I think the gays were quick to scream “fire” because they didn’t get what they wanted. For them to then go on Twitter, FB, Linked In etc. was really inappropriate and speaks to how rash not one, but two gays are. Can’t believe neither thought of a better way to handle the situation. Their reaction makes me think that they are overly dramatic and are possibly making more out of the situation than what actually occurred.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fred
      Fred

      Crime. What crime? If having a stupid employee were a crime, every CEO would be in prison.

      Impulsive, emotionally-based, bad, bad writing.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 9:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris [Different person #1 using similar name]

      I am not quite sure why Queerty is freaking out over a company doing the right thing and investigating a customer complaint? A point of education: Airline employees are unionized workers, and they cannot simply be fired without proof of reasonable cause. If United immediately reacted to what is currently an unverified customer complaint WITHOUT making any investigation, then the aggrieved employee would have grounds to SUE them for wrongful termination and also possibly for defamation.

      Some customers lie, even about serious things like this alleged incident. Some people are just mean-spirited and want to get employees in trouble, some are just crazy, some simply want attention, and some customers fall into all three categories.

      I am gay, and I certainly do not condone or tolerate homophobia. But, I do believe in due process. If I were running United, I would also abide by my labor contracts and do the right thing by my employees, even if it ticked off other gay people. You cannot summarily punish someone without giving them a fair and unbiased proceeding.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Trip
      Trip

      @Chris: Well stated. Having worked in a service industry myself, I have been the victim of self-righteous, aggrieved customers who have made false complaints about me. An investigation is the proper course of action.

      Nov 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris

      @Chris: Exactly. Like I said(pointed to the ones that called me a self hating gay doubter for not immediately calling for this employees termination and imprisonment without investigation) and when you work in a service industry you quickly learn people will accuse you of the most crazy things to get you in trouble or fired simply because you would not cave to their demands. I just find it hard to believe that the entire staff was vague and rude to them and would not let them enter the lounge. And yes, I have flown United. I have never had issues.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 12:48 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Storm
      Storm

      You do not have to fire an employee over a matter such as this. Even the agrieved customers have not called for the manager’s firing. Nor is there any way to corroborate the truth of falsity of the charge that the manager called the pair “faggots.” However, the fact remains that the couple were denied the access to the Gold Member Lounge to which they were entitled. Rather than the vague shrug encapsulated in United’s statement, they might have offered at least an apology for that denial of service.

      Dear valued customers. We’re sorry for the problem you encountered with your United Gold membership and for any associated unpleasantness that may have resulted with our staff. We know you have a choice of airline providers and hope to serve you better in the future.” Would an apology like that have mollified the disgrunted passengers? I don’t know, but it certainly would have shown more class than, “We’re reviewing internally and can’t cooroborate,” which essentially amounts to “Go away, kid, you bother me.”

      Nov 30, 2011 at 1:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Zukira Phaera
      Zukira Phaera

      get in touch with http://www.elliott.org/about/ about this if you haven’t already.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 3:22 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris [Different person #1 using similar name]

      First, since another Chris has posted several comments, I will clarify that I am the Chris that posted comment #16.

      @Storm, a company saying it is investigating a complaint and does not tolerate discrimination is NOT essentially the same as saying, “Go away, kid, you bother me.” The company is doing what all companies do when faced with a customer complaint, affirming it takes the allegations very seriously and making a full investigation. Again, all that has been factually established at this point is that there is an UNVERIFIED complaint made by a customer-couple against an employee who has received an “Excellence in Customer Service” award and who by all accounts to date has no record of any prior incidents with any other customers. Why on earth should United tarnish this employee’s professional reputation, something which could get the company sued, and accept responsibility and apologize for something that is (A) unproven and (B) would amount to unfairly defaming an employee? Even the denial into the Gold Club has not been established as fact, and even if it is laster proven, we don’t know if there was a legitimate reason they were denied entry, or perhaps asked to leave for making a disturbance. Now, if there were witnesses to the event, or there was some other evidence, then fine, yes, I would agree, United should take quick action and apologize while it wrapped up its preliminary investigation. However, at this point all that exists is an unproven allegation.

      Perhaps the couple is being honest and perhaps they are not. Some people lie and make serious false allegations. Sometimes they do it to get attention, sometimes just to be mean, sometimes they hope to get money or special treatment, sometimes they seek revenge for a perceived slight, and sometimes they do it just because they are crazy. In the past, I have worked in customer service (and my experience has made me appreciate how difficult of a job service workers have to do), and I have personally seen customers lie about supposed mistreatment they claimed to receive from my coworkers. (Eg. One well-put-together and by all accounts upstanding lady swore-to-God that my coworker called her a “bitch.” However, I and several other workers were standing by him the whole time he interacted with the customer and he was perfectly polite to her and never called her any name). Yes, some service workers are lazy, rude, or otherwise incompetent, but in this case we have an employee who has won an award for excellence in his work and who clearly cares about his job. He had no reason to ruin his professional reputation and risk losing his job, and the allegation is completely out-of-character based on his past performance.

      The main reason I have seen posted as to why I should believe the allegations at face value is because they were made by a gay couple. As mentioned, I am gay and I know lots of gay people. I know some gay people are honest, wonderful people, and other gay people are lying, scheming jerks. Gay people are simply people, and they can be honest or dishonest. I give no more credibility to a gay person than I would to any other type of person. The other reason I have seen posted as to why I should believe this couple’s story is because they are “Gold Club members.” Well, la-di-da! Gee, of course, being privileged and a “Gold Club member” means you must be telling the truth, as opposed to those lowly workers who serve you. What a nonsense classist argument!

      Currently, there is nothing but an unverified allegation. United is doing the right thing by taking the matter seriously and investigating it. If the employee did say what he is accused of saying, then he should be disciplined–fired, if possible. Also, United should issue a public apology to the couple and give them lots of free tickets, and make a donation to a gay rights organization. However, if there is no evidence to prove the allegation, then United should stand by their employee.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 4:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      I love how immediately people come in here claiming that this might be false.

      Give me a break. Because it’s SO convenient and a fun addition to your vacation to NOT get what you want and then complain later about it for no monetary reward, just asking for an apology.

      The defense of the employee that he was given a customer service award is the EXACT same defense that every juvinille criminal defender tries to use in court. “Gee your honor, my client is an honor student.”

      Fine, so he got a customer service award? Well then it sounds like he failed here.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 7:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MKe
      MKe

      LOL airline “tweets” apology. wow some dumb crisis managers there.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 10:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chink change
      chink change

      By corroborate, they must mean comment. They can’t even bother to proofread the apology.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 11:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Grayson
      Grayson

      @Larry:
      I am guessing you don’t fly United at all. Business class and first class flight attendants are usually the least senior crew on the plane. The flight attendants with the most seniority get to work in economy because it is far easier, and in business or first, they have to be working the whole time. While United’s metal might leave a bit to be desired, in all of my years as a United frequent flyer, I have never had a bad customer service experience when a manager became involved. And the biggest piece of this story that nobody will mention, is that those gents did NOT have access to the lounge in which they were trying to go. They were simply gold members without a Red Carpet Club membership. United only grants free unlimited access to its lounges to Global Services members. Otherwise, you only get free access if you are flying internationally. So it is nice that everyone is rallying behind our gay brethren, but perhaps if we step back and wait a little bit to actually find out the facts, before jumping all over United.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Flying United is a mistake
      Flying United is a mistake

      United has always sucked. United always WILL suck. Expecting United to do the right thing, quickly, and deliver an excellent result is a mistake.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Henry
      Henry

      Gay people shouldn’t fly United. There’s no reason to use an airline that protects anti-gay staff.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris [Different person #2 using similar name]

      Who Cares if they had access to the lounge or not, the issue is that they calls them faggots! I don’t understand why united would not want to just apologize and take care of the customer first and then do an internal investigation. Ignoring this is not going to make it go away but only make it worse!

      Very dissapointed in United . I am a red carpet member and until United does good by these gentleman I will take my traveling needs somewhere else!

      Nov 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris [Different person #1 using similar name]

      For clarity, I am Chris #16 and #21.

      Again, this is an unverified allegation. It may or not be true. People do lie about these sort of incidents. I even recounted my own personal experience long ago when I worked in customer service and personally witnessed a customer lying about being called a vulgar name by a coworker. Yes, it happens, and more commonly than many may think.

      I am sorry, but I am not going to believe, or for that matter disbelieve, someone just because I am gay and they also happen to be gay. Gay people can lie or tell the truth, just as any other type of people can lie or tell the truth. I certainly will not accept at face value an unverified complaint, and neither should anyone else.

      United is doing the appropriate thing by investigating the incident, and if the allegations do prove true, then United should publicly apologize to the customers, discipline (fire if possible) the employee, and make every other effort to make amends. If the allegations cannot be proven, then United does not have any obligation to take any further action. And, if the customers are proven to have lied, then they should be sued for defamation by the employee and banned from ever flying United again.

      Until the investigation is complete and the results disclosed, I am not going to jump on any wagon to condemn United or join in tarnishing the individual employee’s reputation. It is simply not appropriate. I don’t always fly United (I am more concerned about getting the best deal, then flying one particular airlines), but I have no qualms about flying United, unless and until there is some evidence they did something wrong. So, far I have not seen any evidence presented. In fact, my partner and I have a flight booked on United for the holidays. If some people want to go on a crusade based on an unverified complaint from people they don’t even know and without having any evidence presented to them, then they are free to do so.

      Nov 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tackle
      Tackle

      @ Chris#16 & 29.
      Thank god someone with a brain. Who has the ability to use rational thought as apposed to jumping to hysterical conclusions.

      Dec 1, 2011 at 6:53 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dr. Adventure
      Dr. Adventure

      1) There is no Gold Club – there is the United Club (which use to be the Red Carpet Club) – flyers on UA who fly 50K achieve Star Gold Status as part of the Star Alliance – which allows access to Star Alliance Carriers Clubs when flying internationally – any FF know this.

      2) There are some interesting versions and inconsistencies in the story that the Billy Canu has told – especially as it relates to the sequence and whom did what – especially what his husband was doing – he has been very quite

      3) There are some eyewitness reports that both men were very drunk and were quite belligerent.

      4) A full investigation is being conducted and the truth will come out.

      Dec 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bob
      Bob

      Whatever, why make such a big deal out of it? Any man who has already crossed over the line into homosexual gay sex shouldn’t give a rat’s ass what anybody else thinks anyway. Get on with your lives people.

      Dec 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JakeCA
      JakeCA

      He’s a black man with a profession and feels he’s entitled to belittle gay men. That’s how black people are and that’s how they operate. They don’t have any class. Just loud, and obnoxious and rude. I trust the gay people and hope United goes bankrupt. Will never fly United again.

      Jan 1, 2012 at 2:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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