United Airlines Inc, the largest U.S. carrier operating on routes between China and the United States, could see its business suffer in China in the short term, but the impact may not be significant, an expert said, even after a video showing a passenger being forcibly removed from a flight went viral.
Zou Jianjun, a professor of the department of economic management at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China, said in China, whose market was not yet fully mature, price-sensitive consumers may care less about the reputation of a specific company.
"There could be some negative effect on United Airlines on its China-U.S. routes, as some passengers may alter their booking choices, but it's hard to say if there will be any significant impact on its market share," Zou said.
"Passengers may consider overbooking a small probability event. In particular, students and tourists traveling for long-haul journeys between China and the United States, may care most about prices. If United Airlines offered lower-priced tickets, it will still be able to attract many customers," Zou said.
Besides, those passengers who usually book first-class and business-class flights are "unlikely to be influenced by the issue, as they believe that the service in those classes would remain premium", he said.
Currently, United Airlines offers direct flights from major Chinese cities to New York, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Guam.
The direct air routes between China and the U.S. have been one of the most profitable routes, and competition among airlines has intensified. Airlines from the U.S. and China, with Air China being the biggest operator, take similar market shares.
United Airlines said it is bullish about the huge demand for air travel between the two countries. Last year, it launched nonstop flights from second-tier Chinese cities, including Hangzhou and Xi'an, to San Francisco.
It expects a 10 percent annual growth in the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S..
An employee at a U.S. company in Beijing said that when her company booked their business travel flight tickets from China to the U.S., they evaluate the flight schedules and price discounts, regardless of the airlines.