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The fallout from United Airlines’ forcible removal from a flight of passenger David Dao on April 9 has spread to the Tribeca Film Festival. A United Airlines 30-second spot — advertising its Polaris Business Class — had been running before film screenings (United serves as one of the fest’s Signature Partners) but has since been pulled, following a wave of comical reactions from audiences.
On opening night, April 19, prior to the world premiere unveiling of the Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, the spot “touting United Airlines’ pampering of passengers drew so much derisive laughter it drowned out the next ad entirely,” writes THR critic John DeFore. Others note that it played like a parody. Festival attendees confirmed that similar reactions plagued other screenings during which the spot was shown over the next two days. By Friday evening, April 21, the spots had mostly been pulled, and by Saturday they were gone completely. “I wonder who thought that was a good idea,” sniffed one attendee.
“United is a valued partner of the Tribeca Film Festival, and we are grateful for their continued support of our filmmakers and the arts,” said festival spokesperson Tammie Rosen.
It was a joint decision between United and Tribeca to remove the spot, and United remains integral to the festival landscape as the airline helps get filmmakers to New York for the event.
Meanwhile, United has been dealing with a public relations nightmare ever since Dao was removed from a flight by Chicago aviation police officers to make room for United Airlines staffers. The video of him being dragged off the plane by his arms and with blood streaming down his face went viral and has led to an internal review of corporate policies. Dao’s attorney confirmed that he is set to file a lawsuit imminently.