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People Would Pay More Just to Avoid United After Its Controversy, Says Study

About 79 percent of participants who heard about David Dao's incident would choose American Airlines over an identical United flight.

by Drew Schwartz
Apr 18 2017, 1:45pm

Photos via Jayse D. Anspach's Twitter and Tomás Del Coro's Flickr account

Here's some good news for United Airlines: The carrier probably won't be forced to boot passengers from sold-out flights anytime soon. But that's because fewer people are willing to "fly the friendly skies" after its recent scandal, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

The study asked 1,975 people from across the country to visit a sort of, where they were first asked if they were aware David Dao was kicked off a United flight last Sunday. Then they were prompted to choose between two identical flights from New York to Chicago—same travel time, same departure time, same price. The only difference was one was operated by United, while the other was offered by American Airlines.

An overwhelming number of folks who had heard of the United controversy went with American over United—79 percent, the New York Times reports. Even when the American flight included a three-hour layover, just 43 percent of those respondents chose United. When the American Airlines flight was $66 more than an identical United flight, 51 percent said they'd fly United.

And when the American flight had a layover in Cleveland and cost $66 more than the United flight, only 56 percent of people said they'd fly United.

For those who weren't up to speed on the United controversy, the data looks much different. A healthy majority would go with United if it offered a cheaper and/or shorter flight than American, and respondents were split down the middle—as is to be expected—when both carriers offered an identical flight.

Given that all of these respondents were making hypothetical choices, the real proportion of folks who would put up more cash to avoid United might be different. But even if the airline doesn't lose a ton of customers, it'll probably bleed money should David Dao slap it with a lawsuit.

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Morning Consult