ATW Editor's Blog

Five priorities for the new United Airlines CEO


New United Airlines president and CEO Oscar Munoz, who took up the post yesterday after Jeff Smisek stepped down, said he will spend his first 90 days traveling the  United network listening to and talking to people.

That sounds like a good and very appropriate start, especially the listening. Here’s my list of what I think should be Munoz’ five top priorities in these early days:

  1. Look out for service inconsistencies on the ground and in the air. That’s a training issue as much as a resource issue and it’s long overdue a fix.
  2. Fly on other US airlines – most especially American and Delta to see how much they are improving customer service and onboard products relative to United. But I also recommend a couple of coast-to-coast rides on JetBlue and Virgin America if you want to see where US air travel should really be heading. (And fly economy a few times; until your employees get to know your face, this will be a very useful exercise in understanding both their jobs and your customers' experience.)
  3. Fly on some of United’s Star Alliance partner airlines – especially ANA, Air New Zealand and Lufthansa – to understand what international long-haul service should and can look like, and ask how passengers who travel on United after flying on one of these airlines as part of a “seamless” travel experience feel about the over-used word “seamless”. 
  4. Get to know the Star airline CEOs and Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab sooner rather than later. They are a great resource.
  5. De-prioritize the anti-Gulf airlines/alleged subsidy campaign. There’s too much else to do and, in any case, if United’s leadership focuses on the first four of this list, it will learn about those actionable things that will put United in a far better position to compete with the Gulf carriers or any other airline.


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