United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s Late Apology

The saying “better late than never” is what United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz effectively said today, as he went out of his way, again, to issue a third statement to the brutal passenger debacle that happened Sunday night.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you now know what’s happened with United Airlines and their ridiculous actions in removing a passenger from a Chicago to Louisville flight.

In an attempt to save face, and perhaps after seeing the huge internet backlash over the past 48 hours, United released a statement today. I’m shying away from saying that it was actually Oscar Munoz, but instead it was a statement issued by United with Oscar’s signature on it.

In short:

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customer aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

United’s stock took a plunge today, with Wall Street wiping off hundreds of millions of dollars of market value, which in today’s after hours trading, is still falling.

United Friendly Skies ad

United Friendly Skies ad

Call my cynical, but until I see a video of Oscar Munoz saying all of this, I’m not going to believe that this was actually him, nor that things are going to change.

Brand Suicide

In an interview with USA Today, Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, said it best.

“When you go onto a United flight, you shouldn’t have to be concerned there will be blood or you will get slammed in the face,” Schiffer said. “I think you will see an effect on sales from those who are disgusted by the gruesome action. And it’s catastrophic for a brand’s trust.”

A situation like this is not an easy one to recover. I can appreciate that the PR teams at United are working overtime, but moving forward, I think they’ve learned a valuable lesson as to how they can avoid situations like these. Everyone that I’ve spoke to in my normal day to day dealings today has vowed not to fly United ever again, but time will tell if they have long memories or not.

Oscar put out a YouTube video not too long ago, saying that if you had anything to say, you could feel free to tell him. I’d suggest that you go ahead and do that!

What could have been done?

Hindsight is 20/20, and I think now that United realizes that there were so many other options that they could have taken. If they only got up to $800, or even $1000, offer more money. I recently read a report of Delta offering someone up to $1,800 to take another flight. For that kind of money, I’m sure that you would happily have found someone to get off the flight. Hell, there aren’t that many places that I need to be with such urgency that I wouldn’t have taken $1,800.

Many people suggested that the crew could have driven or taken a cab to their destination. I don’t see this as a viable option as there are strict regulations regarding crew rest and time away from work. They might not have had sufficient sleep to operate the next day.

What about other flights? American operates a flight that day, as does United. Could they not have placed the employees on another flight?

Happily Accept the Vouchers

Last year Delta gave me $500, three nights in a row, when they oversold three consecutive flights to JFK from Seattle. I happily showed up every day at the airport and when they said that they were oversold, I raised my hand, volunteered, and collected the voucher. It was becoming almost a game to the gate agents everytime they saw me.

Using these vouchers we were able to get discounted business class tickets to Morocco, for which we just flew last week.

Shame on you United

Hopefully, this isn’t just lip service, and United will actually change. It’s hard to say, as only time will tell. Tell us below. Are you changing your habits? What would YOU like to say to United if you could?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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2 Comments

  1. United completely messed this one up. I was talking to friends who live in the Ohio/Kentucky area and they told me Louisville is only a 1-1.5 hour drive from Cincinnati, OH or Lexington, KY. I’m almost certain UA had flights to both cities as well.
    Anyway, I think what confused me the most about this scenario is the airline’s definition of boarding. To me, as an average Joe, that passenger already boarded the plane (so not sure how it was denied boarding.) If the gate agents offered those vouchers back inside the terminal gate area, then this situation would have never happened. In addition, wouldn’t UA know in advance that it needed 4 employees to be in Louisville the next day? Was a flight cancelled somewhere else that prevented the previously scheduled crew to work on that Louisville flight the next day? Enough of my rant.
    After reading Munoz’s first ‘apology’, I think UA may save more money if they just hired robots rather than people as gate agents since robots lack empathy & common sense, yet will do and abide with all the rules (traits that Munoz seem to appreciate!) 😉

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    • I’ll bet the employees were deadheading to relieve a crew which, through one reason or another, had too many hours under their belts or maybe some equipment failure, so I don’t fault United for trying. It is curious, tho, that they didn’t consider Uber or a taxi, if the destination were that close.

      But that’s hardly the point: when our government lets airlines merge to form three or four super carriers, this is exactly what you get — no competition results in supreme arrogance and contempt for their customers, just because they can get away with it.

      Occasionally, just occasionally, an incident occurs which gets picked up by the media (print, electronic and social) and, suddenly the HUGE disparity between us ordinary folks and these Corporate Gods gets reversed.

      What happened here is much like the OJ Simpson case: suddenly the silent majority gets a vehicle for expression and years of pent-up annoyance/frustration gets a voice (OJ = years of police oppression of blacks).

      I understand CEO Munoz wanting to support his people, but he was terribly on the wrong side of these issues and when the stockholders see how much equity they have lost, his butt may be in a crack, rather than just having one.

      I don’t believe his sudden and late attempts at public apologies for a minute. He’s just trying to do whatever he can to walk this back. Waaaay too little, and too late.

      Shame on you, United.

      And shame on you, Munoz.

      When’s the last time you flew economy, or even Business, much less First Class?

      You’ve got your corporate jets and private limos, like all the other supreme gods of the air, nicely paid for by us peasants.

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