I hate to disappoint you, but rather than not saying anything I do want to provide an update on my recent conversation with United CEO Oscar Munoz.
Last week I asked What Would YOU Ask United CEO Oscar Munoz? I received a number of excellent questions and was looking forward to a respectful yet probing conversation with Munoz.
I was invited to a cocktail reception in Los Angeles featuring the United CEO as well as United’s new President of California, Janet Lamkin. The event coincided with the groundbreaking ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Collesium, which will be named the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum starting next year. United paid $69,000,000 for a 16-year naming rights deal.
The Coliseum is home to the USC Trojans, the alma mater of Munoz, and will host the Rams NFL teams (while their own stadiums are built) as well as track and field events for the Summer Olympic Games in 2028.
Why drop $69MN on that instead of finishing the Polaris Lounge project? Lamkin stated:
Our shared purpose as an airline is to connect people and help unite the world. From now on, the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum will be a symbol of that mission.
That’s a lofty goal, but Lamkin insisted that investing in the community would yield tangible result and that investment in the customer experience and investment in the community are not mutually exclusive.
The reception was held at the Otium restaurant in Los Angeles and featured a panel discussion, primarily focusing on the the Coliseum project. Food was excellent in case you are looking for a good restaurant in Downtown LA.
My Conversation with Oscar Munoz
After the panel discussion I had plenty of time to speak to Munoz…and I did. But not on the questions I had prepared for.
Munoz was remarkably candid speaking about his health. I was chatting with someone else when Munoz came up to us. The man asked Munoz how his “new ticker” was doing (recall, Munoz had heart transplant surgery in 2016). Munoz went on to talk about his health and family in a very personal way for several minutes. I’m not going to share details of that conversation because I don’t want to reward Munoz’s openness by publishing personal matters shared in confidnece.
After that conversation, it simply did not feel like the appropriate time to start quizzing Munoz on retrofits, JFK, lounge progress, and the broken website.
A trio of United reps at the event did confirm the SFO Polaris Lounge will open this summer and the LAX Polaris Lounge this fall. That concedes with this Polaris Tracker that also promises lounge openings in Houston and Newark this summer–
The good news is that I’m confident there will be future opportunities to explore these issues with Munoz. But my last meeting was not the time.