United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz rang in the new year with an encouraging letter to employees. The airline executive gave a glowing recap of 2018 and an upbeat forecast for the year ahead. On a cautiously optimistic note, Munoz warned “the demands and challenges will be great, and so will the rewards.”
After a tumultuous stretch that saw United Airlines embroiled in more than one public relations nightmare as 2018 began, CEO Oscar Munoz had reason to be upbeat in his 2019 address to the airline’s more-than-90,000-employees. The head of the second-largest airline in the world was even more optimistic about the opportunities that will be presented in the upcoming year.
Without specifically mentioning the violent removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight in March 2017 or the death of a puppy less than a year later (after a United Airlines flight attendant allegedly ordered the owner to place the animal in an overhead bin before a cross-country flight), Munoz praised the airline’s workers for diligently avoiding potential pitfalls as 2018 came to a close without a hint of scandal.
“At the beginning of the year (2018), we made a set of promises to our customers and everyone we serve, as well as to ourselves about what we would achieve,” Munoz wrote in his close of year address to employees which was first obtained by the Chicago Business Journal. “But, as you’ve heard me say, what matters is proof, not promise, and day-in, day-out you put in the work, going above and beyond to prove that we could deliver on those promises.”
The CEO also painted a rosy picture of the upcoming year. Promising unprecedented expansion and new resources, Munoz indicated that the tools were in place to make the airline an industry leader in both operational efficiency and customer service.
“Our ambition is nothing short of setting a new standard for what customer service can attain,” Munoz wrote. “Quite simply getting it right will mean making United the leader in our industry.”
Munoz warned that the progress made since the “dark moment” in which a bloodied passenger was publicly dragged from an aircraft, could be fleeting. The CEO said it will take the commitment of the entire workforce in order to usher his ambitious vision of 2019 into reality.
“To be sure the demands and challenges will be great, and so will the rewards,” Munoz cautioned. “Together we will be the authors of our own success story, and the outcome depends only upon our own choice and willingness to seize the opportunities that await us in the coming year.”
Among those demands and challenges in 2019 will likely be growing labor discontent over plans to trim cabin crew on some international flights. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) which represents United Airlines flight attendants, has categorized the cutbacks as “Great Job! Now here’s your punishment.” In December, the union organized a day of action with informational picket lines to protest the staffing reductions at more than a dozen airports worldwide.
[Photo: United Airlines]