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United Airlines

United Airlines CEO: Increasing Bag Fees Will Help “De-stress the Travel Lifestyle”

United Airlines CEO: Increasing Bag Fees Will Help “De-stress the Travel Lifestyle”
Jeff Edwards

United Continental Holdings CEO Oscar Munoz recently told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that better communication with passengers, restoring trust with employees and reinvesting in “customer properties” will help United Airlines live up to the longtime marketing tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies” and once again make passengers “feel good about flying us.”

During Oscar Munoz’s tumultuous tenure at the helm of the United Airlines group, the company has faced more than its share of challenges and public embarrassments – from the mishandled response to news of a passenger being violently removed from an overbooked flight, to a string of animal deaths that forced the airline to temporarily prohibit pets on flights and a series of continuing high profile labor disputes. While admitting to some missteps, the beleaguered airline executive says he has a plan, if not to restore the glamour to air travel, to at least to make the experience somewhat less taxing on the flying public.

“We need to de-stress the travel lifestyle,” Munoz told Jim Cramer in an appearance on CNBC’s Mad Money.  “How do we keep you informed? How do we keep you focused and directed when something goes wrong? But, more importantly, before you even leave your house, you know your flight’s on time, you know where you’re headed.”

Munoz said that the recent increase of bag fees will help to improve the passenger experience, noting that majority of the company’s revenue is reinvested in the airline. He insisted at least a portion of the money put in the company’s coffers through pricey checked bag fees will be used to develop technology and communication systems which will in turn help achieve the goal a making air travel less stressful.

“It’s important to reinvest in the business,” Munoz told viewers. “I think it’s one of the things about this industry that people, our customers, don’t always understand. All that money that we’re getting back is being piled back into the business… We pile that money back into the business for the right things. We want to make you, as our customer, feel good about flying us. And so our customer-centricity, our customer properties, are something we really want to sort of engage.”

The United Continental Holdings chief went on to say that the airline has, in some cases, failed to communicate effectively with both employees and passengers. He said that restoring the trust of the airline’s workforce and customers is an important first step toward making air travel a more pleasant experience once again.

“Trust is the underpinning of a lot of things that we do and that doesn’t compute, as you know, on spreadsheets,” he explained. “But it’s such an important part and foundation for everything we’ve been able to do. It’s a never-ending project with keeping them engaged and motivated, but we’re doing a good job.”

View Comments (50)

50 Comments

  1. topman

    November 1, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    What a croc of ………….

  2. Centurion

    November 1, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Yes Oscar you love those Bag Fees because you avoid a lot taxes if the bag fee was included in the ticket price.

  3. cvine

    November 1, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    “And so our customer-centricity, our customer properties, are something we really want to sort of engage.” Sort of?

  4. FlyingNone

    November 1, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    ..”.to reinvest in the business…”
    ——-
    How about restoring my pension, Oscar?……you know, the one United conveniently dumped when they declared bankruptcy in 2002 ? …..the PBGC just doesn’t come close.

  5. MaxVO

    MaxVO

    November 1, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I thought for a moment it was Ted Cruz in the photo. Heck they do look alike.

  6. flyshooter

    November 2, 2018 at 4:15 am

    This is the attitude that drove me to Southwest Airlies. 88 flights this year and never so happy. Transparency is what makes a traveler comfortable Mr Munoz.

  7. luvtotravel1

    November 2, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Now if I only had a place to put my legs, I’d be a happy camper!

  8. horseymike

    November 2, 2018 at 4:34 am

    this guy is a clown

  9. MimiB22

    November 2, 2018 at 4:51 am

    ” the recent increase of bag fees will help to improve the passenger experience” And of course, making bathrooms, seats and seat pitch tighter is going to do the same. , What absolute hogwash!! Anyone who buys that might want to talk to me about some nice undeveloped slightly wet land I have for sale, at a higher price now, here in Florida. We’ll just say the swamps are now “waterfront lots”.

  10. Superjeff

    November 2, 2018 at 4:51 am

    the problem with this is that it is simply untrue. It is one thing to increase fees due to increased costs; it is one thing to lower service levels due to costs. But to lower service levels AND increase fees simply does not compute. United, like American, has been reducing seat pitch, shrinking lavatories, all to cram more seats into airplanes. This increases passenger stress. All this will do is cause more passengers to try to carry on more bags, creating a mess at the gate, when the agents will have to check bags anyway, usually for free, because they’ve run out of overhead bin space. Oscar is generally respect

  11. hammie

    November 2, 2018 at 4:54 am

    That sounds like a pile of manure.

  12. duncanwil

    November 2, 2018 at 5:04 am

    I wasn’t convinced by that at all. I am not sure that this gentleman understands what it’s like to be a customer of an airline these days.

    Charging for bags, charging for meals, all of these odds and ends are so disruptive and I am not convinced by the argument that they reinvest almost everything back into the business.

    I wonder to what extent this man works with the airports he uses? For example, security: that biggest, most annoying disruptor for the majority of flyers. Belt off, shoes off … OK, shoes on … take your jacket off … empty your bag … put it all back but get out of the way, you’re holding everybody up … there are people who don’t fly very often and they have no idea what to do and where to go.

    So, go to Changi Airport in Singapore and wow, what a breeze their security is: unpack NOTHING. Yes, take your belt and jacket off but that’s it.

    Manchester International Airport in the UK suddenly started charging for using their baggage trolleys … money to be invested in the infrastructure … yeah, right … they invested in a scheme to skank more money out of everyone who drives through the airport and as they do so, traffic gets snarled, tempers fray, people nervous about missing their flights.

    Every time I sit in a seat on an aeroplane I ask myself the question: did the person who designed this seat every use it? Do these airline executives ever use their own airports and airlines. Yes? First class no doubt. sit in economy, sir, long haul. Go through security with the rest of us. Wait for your baggage with the rest of us.

  13. cynosura

    November 2, 2018 at 5:11 am

    Now THAT is some spin. He should be a politician. The embarrassment continues.

  14. see2xu

    November 2, 2018 at 5:13 am

    Haven’t flown UA in 24 months, and nothing about this interview would provide me with any motivation to do so.

  15. alexmyboy

    November 2, 2018 at 5:16 am

    he should run for office he would make a great politician

  16. HomerJay

    November 2, 2018 at 5:22 am

    “Travel on United couldn’t be any less stressful.” – Dr. David Dao

    ” (no comment)” – The Dead Dog in the Overhead

  17. nartman

    November 2, 2018 at 5:44 am

    That’s some effed up logic…

  18. darrylhadfield

    November 2, 2018 at 6:28 am

    “Increasing Bag Fees Will Help “De-stress the Travel Lifestyle””

    Uhhno.

    “at least a portion of the money put in the company’s coffers through pricey checked bag fees will be used to develop technology and communication systems which will in turn help achieve the goal a making air travel less stressful.”

    Longer, but also MUCH more accurate.

    Who writes your headlines? CNN? DNC?

  19. drewguy

    November 2, 2018 at 6:47 am

    They could also reinvest revenues from tickets and not charge baggage fees, which would reduce the incentive everyone has to carry on as much as possible, making the boarding/deplaning experience worse and more stressful than it needs to be.

  20. topman

    November 2, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Basically he is saying Im gonna more money from you and you’re gonna like it.

  21. Jaysonb22

    November 2, 2018 at 7:27 am

    This is the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard. “Hey, we’re going to improve your experience by making you pay for a better experience.” Give me a break.

  22. fotographer

    November 2, 2018 at 7:29 am

    so will lower ticket prices
    Insane justification,

  23. John Aldeborgh

    November 2, 2018 at 7:49 am

    As a (very) frequent flyer, increasing baggage fees encourages people to carry-on versus checking a bag, this to avoid the higher fees. One of the key stress points for all flyers is “will there be bin space for my bag”, this is a universal truth of the airline industry. Increasing the fees will result in insufficient bin space. The airlines deal with this problem by offering to gate check the bag for free. This adds cost, complexity to baggage handling plus a lost revenue opportunity for UA. Given this simple/basic logic, how is increasing fees helpful, to anyone?

  24. cairns

    November 2, 2018 at 8:04 am

    This kind of corporate doublespeak (aka BS) is why I actively go out of my way to avoid UAL and have for a number of years.

    In other words “If we charge you more we’re less likely to treat you like (you know what). There’s no guarantee well treat you any better, of course. In fact we could even treat you worse. But we’ll make more money. And that’s all we really care about.”

  25. zitsky

    November 2, 2018 at 8:04 am

    We’re not stupid. That money is going right into your salary.

  26. Sabai

    November 2, 2018 at 8:05 am

    We must jack-up our junk fees to better serve our hapless customers?

    Friendly skies indeed.

  27. nsummy

    November 2, 2018 at 8:18 am

    “We need to de-stress the travel lifestyle” Ironically the number 1 cause of travel stress while flying is caused by baggage fees. What is the reason so many people line up an hour before a flight? Why does it take forever to get off the plane when it lands? Why is the boarding process so noisy and disruptive? Because high baggage fees cause everyone to bring the largest carry-on possible. I don’t have the figures, but I am pretty sure the baggage fee has not caused flyers to bring less weight when they fly. It would be one thing if the fee was there to stop frivolous use of a limited resource (like parking meters, garages, etc). This has done nothing but move the luggage from the cargo hold to the cabin.

    If he wants to re-invest in the airline, great, charge more for tickets! My point of comparison would be the way Brazil used to handle this (before they changed the law to grab more money from the olympics). Law used to dictate free baggage on international and domestic flights. International was extremely generous at 2 free 70 lb bags. Boarding a flight in Brazil was about the most stress-free experience I have ever seen.

  28. traveltina

    November 2, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Nope – the increased money goes directly into the CEO pocket. Or it funds something and that money goes into the CEO pocket. According to Salary.com, Oscar Munoz makes about $6.7 million per year.

    This salary includes $604,207 in base pay and $6,083,112 in stocks. He also receives $48,793 in other compensation.

    For comparison, Robin Hayes, the CEO of Jet Blue, reportedly makes $3.2 million per year.

  29. rylan

    November 2, 2018 at 10:16 am

    The bag fees so nothing but go straight to the bottom line for profits and keeping the stock price up, which in turn boosts his bonus.

  30. Morgacj2004

    November 2, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Perhaps Mr. Munoz should spend a few days flying around in UA economy. Than maybe just maybe his perspective would change

  31. myisland

    November 2, 2018 at 10:26 am

    He is a LIAR

  32. hinshaw

    November 2, 2018 at 10:59 am

    That is why after 20 years of exclusively flying UAL I left and don’t fly them aymore. The executives are out of touch with reality!!

  33. r_pad

    November 2, 2018 at 11:11 am

    The best thing I can say about him is…at lease he’s not Smisek.

  34. domicone

    November 2, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Well, I’ll be the contrarian. Since Oscar Munoz took the helm of the carrier, I’ve seen a notable increase in employee morale, which greatly benefits me, as a passenger. If I recall, the “violent removal” was related to a United Express flight. Indeed, most of my challenges with United are United Express-related. Everybody wants low fares (even business travelers), but we feel imposed upon when the carriers try to keep fares low by trying to increase efficiency. If you want a modicum of convenience in travel, buy a business class ticket and you’ll receive some, of sorts. However, in my opinion, even the front of the cabin is a stressful experiene when it’s related to a United Express flight.

  35. TheBarron

    November 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Is this CEO for real?!!

    Give me a break that the increased baggage fees result in a better flying experience. Hah!

    Now along with “comfort & service” animals, 500 lb. passengers taking up OUR seating area & sneaking seatbelt extenders to bluff the flight attendants, lousy food & in-flight service, smaller seat sizes, smaller restrooms, & downright poor flight attendant attitude & lack of cheerfulness, we get this! BS

    Time to boycott UAL for good, flyers.

  36. Berniecfc

    November 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

    The general rule of thumb is that a company’s culture starts at the top. So when you have a weasel like Oscar Munoz running things, it’s no wonder things are going from bad to worse. The fact that his employes can’t trust him filters down to the fare paying public. With statements that paying more will improve things goes to show how much attention he pays to the people using his airline. If I was Munoz, I would beg the CEO Gary Kelly of Southwest to have lunch with me and find out how to really run a profitable airline. 2 free bags, no change fee and still making a profit, that’s what I would call a good customer experience. At the moment I would suggest UAL is in front of AA on the race to the bottom.

  37. John Isaac

    November 2, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Bravo Sierra!!!!!

  38. topman

    November 2, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    This is one HEARTLESS jack…

  39. Airrage

    Airrage

    November 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    All these morons have it backwards. Charge to brings bags on the plane!!!!!!!!! Make checked luggage free. That would get rid of so much bull****. And then, enforce the rules!!!!!!!

  40. Surfwriter

    November 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    It’s clear that Mr Muñoz lives in an alternative universe that revolves around the board room. Then why should I worry? I’ve already given our agent instructions to avoid using UA even though it’s a partner with the airlines we usually use. His cliché ridden, condescending and genuinely pompous rhetoric and corporate buzz words are hardly going to change my mind..

  41. jjonathan

    November 2, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    King of the idiots. This man otta be dragged kicking and screaming from his own planes. He has ruined what used to be one of the best airlines in the world

  42. Campuscoll

    November 2, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Mr. Munoz has obviously not listened to coach passengers. Increased baggage fees translates as more carry on baggage in the cheap seats and twice as long as acceptable times in deplaning. I have waited as long as 35 minutes to get off the plane once the seat belt sign was turned off. When has Mr. Munoz travelled in the back of the plane for any lengthy period of time? I am surprised that there isn’t a class action lawsuit of injuries based on no leg room and strained bodies from staying in one position for hours on end. As Sheldon would say, “Mr. Munoz is full of hoakum!”

  43. busquedor

    November 3, 2018 at 8:58 am

    As Bugs Bunny used to say, “What a maroon!” As if the “money reinvested in the airlines” isn’t really going to the shareholders and the executive salaries. Very little of it is going to the hardest workers on a flight, the flight attendants! Jeeeez….

  44. c1ue

    November 3, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Sorry, but while I agree that the “technology and development” spin doesn’t ring true, it isn’t clear either that this is just greed.
    Spirit, among others, has for years used split out fees to appear to be the cheapest option in OTA fare finder services. This is the same rationale behind “basic economy” fares.

  45. ual1960

    November 3, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    It’s a variation of “To save the village we had to destroy it.”

    772 3-4-3
    The actual numbers we can credit to Munoz.

  46. Crazy Dave

    November 4, 2018 at 10:38 am

    UA needs to give Oscar an UA

  47. rowingman

    November 5, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Avoiding his crappy airline de-stresses my travel experience. I would rather crawl through broken glass than fly United.

  48. skidooman

    November 6, 2018 at 5:03 am

    Really wanna “di-stress” travel lifestyle?

    Simple. Free checked bag.

    This is the norm in Asia. First bag always free. And the result? Way, WAY less overhead space competition. Because most people will gladly take advantage of it.

    While in the US it is CRUCIALLY important to be the first ones to board because, you know, otherwise no space left in these overheads. Which forces gate agents and others to hussle, either by pleading with people to check in their bags for free and fetch them to the jet bridge, or by getting bags checked from within the plane once everyone boarded and there isn’t enough space for the last joinees’ bags.

    But in the alternate reality of US airlines (except Southwest), fees are really a “nice thing” for customers. Complete nonsense.

  49. Boggie Dog

    November 6, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I’ll have some of what he is smoking. Must be good stuff!

  50. AADC10

    November 7, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    UA is just a follower in the race to the bottom. Like all large companies, the only stakeholders that matter are the shareholders, which coincidentally is where most of the executive compensation lies. Customers, employees, and vendors exist only to be squeezed for the benefit of shareholders.

    Oscar Munoz and UA could at least innovate on how to accelerate the race to the bottom, but they are incapable of even doing that. They just follow along on the bankster driven circling of the drain. At least if you are accelerating to the bottom, you pick up speed before you crash.

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