United Airlines flight
United Airlines flightiStock

More than a week after a passenger was ejected from a flight bound for Louisville, Kentucky, there are growing signs that the operator of the flight, United Airlines, has suffered a significant financial blow from the incident.

On April 9th, United Airlines crew members notified passengers already boarded on flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville that four of them would have to exit the plane to make room for UA employees needed in Kentucky.

Rather than find alternative transportation for the employees for what could have been a four-hour drive to Louisville, United Airlines asked for passengers to volunteer their seats, offering a paltry $400 – later upped to $800 – in airline vouchers to compensate for the nearly 24-hour layover until the next flight to Louisville.

When no takers were found, rather than increase the offer to passengers, the flight crew instead selected four passengers to be ejected from the plane. One of those passengers, Dr. David Dao, refused the flight crews demands and was violently ejected by O’Hare Airport police.

During his removal from the plane, Dr. Dao was knocked unconscious, had his nose broken, and lost two teeth.

Videos of Dr. Dao being dragged unconscious from the plane with blood running down his face immediately went viral on the internet, sparking an angry backlash against United Airlines. After initially placing the blame for the incident on Dr. Dao, United Airlines eventually issued a partial apology for the incident.

Unfortunately for United Airlines corporate executives, however, the damage seems to have been done. Last Thursday Dr. Dao initiated a lawsuit against both United Airlines and Cook County, which operates O’Hare Airport.

The media firestorm resulting from Dr. Dao’s violent ejection from the plane rattled investors, who fled United Airlines’ stock – UAL – in droves.

Reports indicate United Airlines has lost between $1 to $1.3 billion dollars in value since the story broke.

While UA appears to have stabilized in trading Monday, a second and potentially far more serious long-term threat remains, with customers themselves turning away from the company’s flights.

A Morning Consult poll published Monday shows that respondents who had heard of the ejection of Dr. Dao by the United Airlines staff were significantly less likely to purchased tickets for a UA flight.

The survey polled respondents, offering two possible flights from Chicago to NYC, one operated by United Airlines, the other by a leading competitor.

All other things being equal, flyers who were aware of the incident on flight 3411 overwhelmingly said they would prefer to fly on UA’s competitor, American Airlines, with just 21% saying they would be willing to take a flight operated by United Airlines.

Even if the conditions of the United Airlines flight were more favorable than the American Airlines flight, a surprisingly large number of respondents said they would still refrain from flying United, with 57% saying they would fly American Airlines over United even if that entailed making an extra three-hour layover.

If the American Airlines flight had an extra layover and cost one third more, still fully 44% of respondents said they would refrain from flying United.