Echoing the sentiments of his boss, CEO Oscar Munoz, United Airlines President Scott Kirby blamed the trials and tribulations of modern life, in part, for the carrier’s public perception as a less-than-customer-friendly entity. In comments to an employee group obtained by Live and Let’s Fly, he placed some of the blame for the airline’s troubled reputation on inexperienced flyers.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz made headlines recently after seeming to admit that passengers aren’t happy with the current state of air travel. While he admitted that flyers are becoming fed up with ever more crowded cabins and shrinking airplane, the airline executive indicated that much of what makes air travelers unhappy is out of his control.
“I think we are nearing a point certainly that we can’t do that anymore,” Munoz told ABC News’ David Kerley. “It’s [air travel] become so stressful, from when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security. Frankly, by the time you sit on one of our aircraft, you’re just pissed at the world.”
Now, United President Scott Kirby appears to have seized on his boss’s talking points. Speaking with an employee group about customer service issues, he struck a remarkably familiar-sounding refrain.
“I would argue there’s a rationale for it,” Kirby said in the comments obtained by Live and Let’s Fly. “To a frequent flyer who knows all the rules, who understands how to get through TSA, who knows our rules about changing flights and when they can upgrade and when they can’t, that feels professional, because it’s black and white. I know all the rules. To somebody who doesn’t fly often, the rules don’t make sense. They’re already tense, they’re stressed, trying to get through security, trying to get to the airport on time, figure out where to park their cars, you know, all that stuff. And then they get here and what doesn’t make sense to them feels like a set of black and white rules, that we’re this big company that just doesn’t care.”
Discussing ways United might change the public’s often less than a favorable perception of the company, Kirby suggested that frontline workers will be given more latitude to help solve customer service issues whenever they arise. He stopped short, however, of providing details about how much authority employees will actually have to rectify those problems.
“So a lot of this is about empowering you to take care of customers and do the right thing for customers, but getting all of us to start to recognize that we’ve got to change how people feel and so that they feel like we care and that really is our mission,” Kirby continued. “If I have one request from all of you it’s to do that. To start to think about how people perceive us, how our customers perceive us. Actually, it’s not even just our customers, it’s the community at large. How others perceive United Airlines.”
Kirby also suggested that United (and the other big three U.S. airlines) may bear the brunt of the public’s ire, while smaller carriers such as Southwest Airlines are sometimes given a free pass. He suggested that management and rank-and-file employees should focus on the things that are within their control to fix.
“We need to, in 2019 and beyond, start to change how people feel about United Airlines,” Kirby admonished. “And a lot of time I will hear from employees that will say, ‘Why does United always get beat up in the press and Southwest gets a free pass? It’s not fair.’ Maybe it’s not fair. Also completely irrelevant whether it’s fair or not, because it is what it is.”
[Image Source: United]