Business Management: Critical Thinking Framework

United Airlines has been one of the biggest names in the airline industry that successfully takes domestic and international flights. However, recently, it has been in hot waters due to its several bad customer services instances that have cost it a loss of billions of dollars and damage to its company value. This paper aims to effectively use the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) framework to solve the customer service problem of United Airlines and reflect upon the critical thinking presented by the particular context.

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United Airlines Customer Service Problem

There have been numerous customer service problems at United Airlines, including pet deaths and stopping the customers from boarding the planes who have particular pet breeds, breaking guitars, throwing the customers out of the plane, not responding to customer service issues on calls and Twitter, and inedible plane meals, etc. (, 2019). These reasons have forced the customer to switch to other options since an airline is all about customer service, which United Airlines has not done well.

A United Airlines flight in April 2017 that was to travel from Chicago to Louisville happened to drag and throw one of the flight customers out of the plane. United Airlines had overbooked its flight and wanted some of its customers to leave the flight, for which they offered compensation as well. When no one from the flight agreed to their terms, they randomly picked four people from their airplane record system. One of those four people refused to get off the plane, which security people dragged out of the plane (Shaun Belding, n.a.).

The company made matters worse for itself when it released a report on the internet, and many social media platforms after outrage on these platforms was almost impossible to handle. The passenger was troublesome and belligerent (Matousek, 2018). The same passenger sued the airline as he was badly hit by the armchair while dragging and severely mistreated by the security people. The airline had to settle with the passenger for the mess it had created eventually.

Thinking Critically

The critical thinking framework outlined by Michael Kallet includes tools and techniques using three components: clarity, conclusions, and decisions (Kallet, 2014, p. 16). Using this framework, an evidence-based recommendation for United Airlines would be provided to improve customer service. Under the clarity section, United Airlines needs to offer its passenger a memorable by utilizing the IDIC phenomenon (TTec, n.a.). It constitutes of identify, differentiate, interact and customize so that customer-centric culture is established in United Airlines. For this, the airline must deem customers valuable, differentiate them with their specific needs and behavioral concerns, interact with them with string communication, address their concerns immediately, and customize some of its offerings. For example, in the incident of a passenger being dragged out of the plane, United Airlines could have thought of other options by customizing its offers, like taking the extra overbooked customers by a private jet (Shaun Belding, n.a.). It would have cost the airline some expenses in the short term but could have saved its image from being tarnished and the it faced after a social media backlash.

The next step in Kallets framework is about conclusions which refer to the solutions and activities list that need to be done for the particular improvement. For this, overbooking should be strictly avoided so that the last resort, like having to drag the customer out of the plane, should not even become an option. Even if this was the scenario, United Airlines still had to incur some costs in the form of $800 compensation for leaving the plane, which could have been otherwise addressed by having a private plane fly the extra passengers to their destination. Consequently, these costs could be avoided once the overbooking stops.

The final step in Kallets framework is about decisions. The best time to start acting on the action plan is right now. It is said for this reason since United Airlines has already suffered financial losses and damaged industry image. Making communications stronger and transparent with its customers is the best way to let them know that the company is willing to make up for what has been done in the past. For that, social media could be the best medium to make its customer base aware of its progressive scheme and that United Airlines is committed to serving them with excellence shortly.

Applying VUCA

According to the VUCA framework (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), the recommendation for United Airlines would be affected, and the considerations are to be observed before its implementation. The V component of the specified framework is about volatility and the dynamics of change to be managed. The speed of changing forces in the recommended solution, which is applying the IDIC phenomenon and preventing overbooking of flights, would involve the efficiency of the airline staff and their attitudes towards their customers. The company culture and the staff behaviors shaped by the companys functionality would be considered in implementing the recommendation.

The U component of the VUCA framework is about uncertainty and the unpredictable aspects that could arise during the recommendations application process. Uncertainty could be removed with strong communication, as suggested earlier. Constant interaction with the customers would reduce the availability of information that is the primary reason for unanticipated situations.

The C component is about complexity indicating the interconnectedness of the forces in play. Implementing the IDIC framework and avoidance of overbooking would require several steps to be applied at a time. Such interconnectivity can cause complexity, which United Airlines cannot overlook. By keeping its cultural values strong and open-minded, cross-categorization could be made convenient for achieving effective results of the recommendation.

The A component of the framework is about the lack of clarity and the interpretation of the meaning of action plan steps that could confuse. United Airlines would again have to communicate with its employees so that customers could be better served with clear goals and directions. Only then, the confusion could be eradicated for better customer service for United Airlines.


United Airlines problem with customer service needs to be addressed promptly so that further harm to its image is barred. Serving its customers with respect should be its primary concern so that its commitment should be aligned with its policies and procedures for success in the long run. For becoming a customer-focused airline, the company must implement the IDIC framework and observe the probable consideration with the VUCA framework. Communication is integral in the entire process since controlling the unambiguous and unpredictable factors would become more expedient. This culture shift is expected to positively change the firms customer service for a long-lasting impact in the industry and gain a competitive advantage for earning back customers trust. Immediate implementation of the action plan for the recommended solution is the appropriate pace of evolution that the company currently needs.


Kallet, M. (2014). Think smarter: Critical thinking to improve problem-solving and decision-making skills. John Wiley & Sons.

Matousek, M. (2018, March 16). United Airlines has a long history of infuriating customers- here are its worst customer service incidents. Business Insider.

Nomadic Matt. (2019, August 5). 16 reasons why flying United Airlines sucks.

Shaun Belding. (n.a.). United Airlines appears to be committed to .

TTec. (n.a.). The 4 steps to becoming a customer-centric airline. https://www.ttec.