Questions for New United CEO Oscar Munoz

Questions for New United CEO Oscar Munoz

The elation over the exit of Jeffrey Smisek, United’s highly criticized CEO, amid a corruption scandal involving the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has United’s employees and customers now wanting answers from the incoming CEO of United, Oscar Munoz.

Jeff Smisek, departed United with over $4.9 million in cash plus a bevy of perks; not exactly what any normal person would expect for someone who has become known for alienating both customers and employees as well as participating in what US prosecutors are calling a pattern of corruption.

The incoming CEO Oscar Munoz sat on the United Airlines Board of Directors for more than a decade (including his time on the Continental Airlines BOD) and some question how someone who so actively participated in the decision making, which has led to United’s decline, could now be the right person to properly complete the merger with Continental and lead the airline back to a premier position among the world’s airlines.

In his letter to employees, here are a few of the things Mr. Munoz had to say, plus some responses from United employees: 

Munoz: “In the coming weeks, I will be making my first visits around the system. I want to talk to as many of you as possible because I want to get to know you and what you think about how things are going. How can we operate better? How can we better serve our customers? What support do you need to deliver that?”

United flight attendant based in Chicago: “What support do I need? How about the basics if you don’t mind. The overall service has gone downhill consistently, contrary to the marketing promises, and we are not keeping up with our competitors. I’m having to make excuse after excuse for delays and maintenance issues on broken planes and what about my contract? How have you sat on the Continental and United boards and watched this ship sink? In your comments, you never mentioned anything about making good with the United employees; instead, its all about wanting us to help dig you out of the big mess you’ve created. Doing away with our profit sharing? Are you crazy?”

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Mr. Munoz wraps up his letter by stating: “As we bring this airline forward, I promise to hold true to these principles of customer focus, teamwork through our shared purpose, continual innovation, and of course, safety.”

United flight attendant based in Denver: “I love that he says shared purpose! My colleagues and I have done our best to serve the customer but we have been dealing with a management team who appears only concerned with making themselves rich. This was once again demonstrated by the fact that Jeff Smisek, who’s obviously used his position improperly, has been sent out the door with millions upon million of dollars of OUR money! What does Mr. Munoz plan to do to prove to us that he’s not just another scheming clone out to get everyone rich off of our backs?”

United frequent flier: “I’ve been watching this airline slip for far too long and their execs have been rewarded for it. It’s out of control This guy better make it very clear, very quickly that things are going to be different or I am definitely jumping ship.”

United Pilot based in Houston: “I know he’s been successful at the railroads, but I hope he understands that he is not going to make a successful go of it here without his people on board. We are transporting human beings who respond well when handled by happy people. We are not happy right now and I know our flight attendants, who are face to face with the passengers, have had it.”

I would highly suggest that Mr. Munoz take a long hard look at what he wants his time at United to be like. The best way to supercharge United’s ascent it to make things right with the United people, employees and customers, ASAP.




Gailen David is co-host of the nationally syndicated travel talk show, "The Jet Set" with over 1.8M weekly viewers in over 200 television markets in 12 countries. A former flight attendant, he leads a global discussion about "Jetiquette", the rules or code of civilized travel. Gailen is a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN and USA Today on topics related to the airline travel experience and of course, Jetiquette. Visit Gailen's website

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