United CEO Oscar Munoz recently sat down with ABC News to talk shop. Some of his statements really took me by surprise.
If you’re interested, you may want to start by watching the full interview below. It’s only about three minutes long:
Munoz made several statements that I want to tackle. In speaking about the ever-shriking size of seats, Munoz was asked if seats would continue to shirnk.
I think we are nearing a point certainly that we can’t do that anymore.
Of course that doesn’t commit him to anything (“nearing a point” can mean many things). Still, this is likely a recognition of the law of diminishing returns more than any act of benevloennce.
Speaking about the lingering onboard wi-fi issue on United, Munoz added:
It’s complicated technology. We will fix that, and, frankly, we would stop a lot of our growth if we could just stop and find the right provider and get that done. That’s how important Wi-Fi is to us and to our customers.
But there are many on the market that work fine. Ask Delta. Ask American. They manage to offer consistent internet and in many cases at far higher speeds than what United offers. This does matter.
Munoz addresses the stress of travel in general, downplaying the suggestion that United (or airlines in general) make it worse:
It’s 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 and I don’t care what coffee or cookie or smile I’ll give you, you’re just ready to…”
My takeaway from the Munoz’s statement is the idea that “it’s not us who has the problem, it’s you.” Imagine a world in which airlines like United made the flying experience the best part of the travel journey, thereby releiving the stress and hassle encountered before setting foot on a plane and after stepping off. Shouldn’t that at least be the goal?
Finally, it seems like Munoz feels like he cannot win. He laments:
There’s no good deed that goes unpunished because if you take care of your employees investors will want to know why you’re lagging, if you do too much for your customers everyone matches you, you end up doing more; it’s important that you do deliver the financial benefits to your investors because they’re a big part of your world.
Well yes, of course. But how do you explain the happy employees and happy custmoers and happy investors at Delta?
My ovearll takeway is that Munoz is sounding more and more like United President Scott Kirby, who has earned the reputation as being a cynical beancounter who is ruthlessly focused on the bottom line.
Let’s not use this as a slugfest again Scott Kirby or Oscar Munoz. Both are doing their job in the way they know best. In bringing the maximum value to shareholders, both share a differnet goal than we, the passengers, do. But I do think Munoz misses the mark in several key parts of his interview. Indeed, it makes me concerned about what cuts might be next.
image: ABC (Fair Use Exception)