Over this past weekend President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. After this executive order was pushed through the Taxi Workers’ Alliance, a nonprofit union that represents over 50,000 New York City taxi drivers asked their members to halt work at the airport between 6 and 7 pm to voice their opposition against Trump’s policies. About a half an hour after the stoppage of taxis Uber tweeted that it had turned off surge pricing- a system where fares increase automatically according to demand- around the airport. Immediately after Uber tweeted this people on twitter were accusing the company of attempting to profit off protesting cab drivers by making it cheaper for customers to get a ride from the airport. This was followed by many users calling to #deleteuber and many even posted screenshots of them doing just that or registering for Ubers competitor, Lyft.
Many of those who did decide to delete and boycott Uber had other reasons for doing it as well. Many said that they were boycotting because Uber’s CEO Tracis Kalanick has been involved with Trump’s advisory board and that when they saw the company try to profit off of the protests that was the last straw for them. This call to delete Uber seemed to be working very quickly at least for a little while by spreading through Twitter to people all over the country and the world.
Early Sunday morning Uber tweeted this apology about the incident and pointed towards Kalanick’s Facebook post, in which he claimed that the company was working hard to identify drivers who were from the seven countries affected by the ban. Along with posting this on Facebook the CEO also took to Twitter on Sunday morning to talk about how the ban is “against everything that Uber stands for” and that he would do what he could to pressure the president to “stand up for what is right” when Kalanick has his next meeting with the president. Kalanick also said that Uber would compensate any drivers for lost earnings that were unable to work because of the ban and set up a $3 million legal defense fund against the ban. It has also now just been publicized that Kalanick decided to step down from Trump’s advisory board because of what happened and it being seen as an endorsement of the current administration.
In his Facebook post Kalanick did emphasize how important he feels it is to work with Trump, which is a decidedly different stance than Uber’s competitor Lyft took on this issue. Lyft instead emailed customers on Sunday morning condemning the executive order and making it known exactly where the company stands on this issue. Lyft also announced in this email that they will be donating $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years in the wake of this executive order.
Looking at this situation from a crisis communications stand point I feel like Uber did a very good job in reacting to a situation once it had already happened. It is still unclear whether or not the original tweet was sent out in order to try and take advantage of the situation at the airport or if they were just trying to inform their customers that the surge pricing would not be happening because of the situation. I think that the problems that Uber came across were amplified by the fact that their CEO has been talking to the president, who is obviously widely disliked by the people who were protesting at the airport. But I think that once the hashtag started Uber acted quickly in getting an apology statement out from both the company and the CEO. The company also made sure the public was aware that this was a misunderstanding that the company is working to fix as soon as possible.