The Importance Of The Physical Arena In The Airline Industry: The Case Of “United Breaks Guitars”

In this vastly growing technological age, when consumers can so easily review, rate, and connect with their friends, families, and even businesses online, one can argue that the need for the excellent customer service in the physical arena is needed. “It has taken less than twenty years to become integrated with internet technology and provide mobile virtual access” (Peelan, E., 2013). The physical environment of the airline industry is where all of the action takes place, as each moment of truth builds up a customers’ perception of the company’s brand. By engaging with a desk clerk upon arrival at the gate, or by asking a steward for another beverage mid-flight, the consumer’s experience can range from poor to positive on a quick sliding scale. Disputably, the quality of the consumer’s psychical experience enables the consumer to discuss his immediate needs, complaints, or positive reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, submitting a contact form, or even e-mailing into the airline companies.

As an example, let’s look to Dave Carroll’s experience with United Airlines in July 2009. Unfortunately, Mr. Carroll’s guitar was ruined in a flight from Halifax to Chicago; and he documented this experience by creating a series of music videos on YouTube. The first video describes a first-hand encounter of watching his guitar being tossed around by baggage handlers while loading the airline. This video received nearly 150,000 views within the first twenty four hours. United Airlines contacted the musician shortly after this incident became public. The second video goes on to tell about the feedback that was given to the artist; and the third film discusses engagement that other consumers who have reached out to Carroll with their own negative experiences. The final line of the trilogy song says, “They say that you’re (United) changing, and I hope you do, ‘Cause if you don’t then who would fly with you.” Overall, this series of experiences from Carroll speaks volumes on the matter of customer engagement. These viral videos have been seen across the world and affected the choices of many potential prospects for United Airlines. One could argue that had United Airlines focused on handling baggage more carefully to begin with, and having an honest, reliable approach to customer complaints, these videos may have not been made. Carroll has gone on to publish a book about his ingenuity and tackling against an airline organization’s figurehead with social media applications.

This example could easily apply to any airline, and proves that with a focus on the consumer’s experience in the physical arena, consumers will share excellent experiences, positive reviews, and feel fulfilled from the purchase. In turn, this will increase a brand’s image and encourage other customers to discuss their positive experiences as well.

Works Cited 

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.

Carroll, D. (2015). United Breaks Guitars. Retrieved from YouTube:

Carroll, D. (2015). United Breaks Guitars 2. Retrieved from YouTube:

Google Books. (2015). United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media. Retrieved from:


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