Fascinating: Good Morning America Interviews United’s CEO

I promise our coverage of this United incident is slowly coming to an end, and there will be several miles & points posts today. However, Good Morning America just had a fascinating interview with United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, that I think is worth sharing.

This follows United management responding to the situation horribly for 48 hours, only to finally issue a real apology after their market cap dropped somewhere around a billion dollars yesterday. Here’s the interview, where they ask him some really good and tough questions:

Some of the questions he’s asked include:

  • What did Oscar think when he saw the video a person being dragged off one of his planes?
  • Why wasn’t United’s “shame” initially communicated, if that’s how they felt?
  • What will United be doing to make sure this never happens again?
  • What does the passenger in question deserve from United?
  • Was the passenger at fault in any way?
  • Has Oscar considered resigning, given how poorly this situation has been handled?

If you have a few minutes, this is an interview that’s worth watching. Ultimately we don’t know whether this apology is sincere or forced — up until now Oscar has seemed like a good guy who wanted positive change, though his response the first 48 hours doesn’t reflect that. However, I don’t know how much of that was driven by United’s legal department rather than their PR department. He seems sincere in this interview, and I’m tempted to believe he’s a “good guy,” and has largely been failed by the people around him.

I’m happy to hear Oscar admit that part of the problem is that the systems United has in place don’t allow their employees to use common sense, and that’s on him to fix (that’s what Travis wrote about yesterday). It’s also nice to see him realize that they need to evaluate the ways they use law enforcement onboard their aircraft when it comes to enforcing non-safety concerns.

What do you make of Oscar’s Good Morning America interview?


This has been a quickly-moving story with myriad updates. The full coverage of the United incident from the One Mile at a Time team is as follows:

Crazy Video: Passenger Forcibly Dragged Off United Flight
What United Really Screwed Up With Their Latest Viral Incident
The Horrible Video I Hadn’t Seen Of The Guy Being Dragged Off A United Flight...
Why United’s Incident Is A Much Bigger Deal Than You May Think
Pathetic: United’s CEO Makes The Denied Boarding Fiasco Even Worse
What Are Your Rights If You Get Bumped From A Flight?
United’s Removal Of Passengers May Not Have Been Legal
The Root Cause Of United’s Denied Boarding Fiasco
Wow: Emirates Throws Major (But Fair) Shade At United In New Video
FINALLY: United’s CEO Issues A Real Apology For What Happened
I’m Sorry: My Initial Reaction To The United Situation Was Wrong
Fascinating: Good Morning America Interviews United’s CEO
United Is Refunding The Fares Of All Passengers On Flight 3411

Comments

  1. I saw the interview. Monuz had clearly been lawyered up, but he did seem to acknowledge that the pax was entitled to more than an apology.

    On balance, I think HE had to be UA’s mouthpiece, not some buffoon from public relations, so good on him, and he did a fair job.

  2. Rubbish.

    The reason the response has changed – look at the share price! Corporate PR BS as usual.

    I will never fly United!

  3. It’s as much bullshit non-apology double-speak as his THIRD apology was yesterday. It shouldn’t take three times for someone who “seems like a good guy” to make what *sounds like* a sincere apology. He’s the CEO. How many trip-ups before we call a spade a spade and stop blaming the legal team or the PR team or the [insert other soft-science] team and just say, “This guy stepped on his balls because, at the most basic, United just doesn’t fucking care about anything other than money, and this time they happened to open the kimono and show it”?

    Let’s be honest, everyone in the points and miles game has known this was the case for the longest time. That’s why there are mileage sales and partnerships and blah blah blah. But the vast majority of the public flies when they have to, which is seldom and usually in Economy with no status where they’re treated like total crap. And now they’re fighting back.

    We really can’t fight with our wallets anymore because flying is just too much of a necessity in the modern world and deregulation has led to an oligopoly among the Big 3 given their route networks and agreements.And if we’re supposed to treat companies like people, then they should be shamed like people and held accountable like people. Is it shitty for Oscar? Absolutely. Is he partly responsible? Absolutely. He’s had ample time as CEO to make positive changes to more than just the airline’s bottom line, and he has failed to do so. You can only blame archaic systems and processes so long before you have to start owning your laziness.

    A new, subpar business product doesn’t make a great airline overnight. Look at Alaska and Virgin America. Both have “meh” F products and fairly small route networks. Yet they have a huge following because they treat their customers well and empower their employees.

    This is a wakeup call for the flying public and a wakeup call for airlines. United just happened to be the whipping boy because they’ve stepped on their own crank too many times in too few months. C’est la vie.

  4. I propose a few changes to the rules

    1) Make the minimum payable for IDB to be twice the last minute walk up fare on the route and a refund/free flight. This will encourage airlines to pay more to get VDBs.
    2) For delays after a 1 hour grace for every 1 hour the passenger is delayed at his final destination pay 100 dollar. 20 hour delay means $1900, 2 hour delay means $100. This will avoid the situation where the airline tries to put you on a later flight even when there is another flight leaving earlier on another airline
    3) Anytime a flight attendant asks for a passenger to be deboarded because they perceive a safety risk the flight attendant also has to deboard to provide testimony. This will mean deboarding people for fake security/ real operational reasons will cause an operational hit so airlines wont do it. It also dovetails well with the constitutionally provided right to confront your accuser. People should not just be able to inconvenience other people with fake accusations without being inconvenienced themselves.

  5. In a situation like this, when asked if the passenger was to blame at all, DO NOT MAKE A LONG PAUSE before answering. The answer is NO, he didn’t, and if you can’t say that immediately then you don’t believe it and are still making this problem worse.

  6. The missing part of this sorry sage to me is the person in charge of scheduling crews and who sent those four positioning crew members at the last minute to the gate? It would seem that the agent(s) working the gate would know that they required four seats prior to boarding if proper procedures had been followed (or at least common sense so dictates), and thus adopted the “normal” process of seeking passengers willing to be bumped prior to boarding. From having flown many United Express flights, I know that they generally have a single gate agent who is always overworked and thus stressed by the end of the day (which it appears this flight was scheduled for departure late in the day, last flight to Louisville). And while this person, from reports, did not clearly set out what was needed and why to passengers, they’re the current target of outrage (in addition to the airport “police”).

    So I’d like to know where this fiasco really started with UA’s regional contractor.

  7. The stock price fell 2-3% because of the incident, which is simply a garden-variety dip on bad news. Let’s not make it seems like the stock was in a death spiral; it never was. I’ve never seen people reference daily swings in a market cap dollar-amount like this before, which is obviously a tactic to make the sell-off appear more drastic than it actually was.

    For what it’s worth, the stock is already back to where it was on Thursday. The rebound began before yesterday’s apology even occurred.

  8. Why is no one in the media demanding he step down? In any other situation like this, it happens quickly especially if they don’t like the person politically or whatever.

  9. He definitely dodged the question about offering a higher $$$ amount to get a volunteer to be rebooked to avoid situations such as these. I do appreciate him admitting that law enforcement should not be used to forcibly remove passengers who aren’t threatening the safety of others. In addition, I’m also glad he addressed the systems in place that prevent gate agents from using their common sense!
    Yes, I agree rules should be in place but the main reason a human is a gate agent is for their ability to use common sense in tense/stressful/difficult/complex situations such as what happened on Sunday. With the current system in place, UA is better off replacing their gate agents with robots since robots lack empathy, lack common sense, yet will always do what you program them to do.

  10. @AdamR: SPOT.ON.
    This this this – a thousand times this. I would ask everyone else to scroll up and re-read his comments.

  11. The initial reactions are always your true belief in the matter. This is a lawyered up apology to save his @ss if it’s still salvageable.

  12. This morning, i read calls to open up the domestic airline routes and end protection for US carriers. Given Trump’s anti-regulation stance, this may be the ideal solution. If there was a choice to fly any other airline on US domestic routes (like SIA or Emirates) would many of us continue to chose to support UA (or AA for that matter)? Let the market decide!

  13. LOL — ” — up until now Oscar has seemed like a good guy who wanted positive change, though his response the first 48 hours doesn’t reflect that.”

    So, Munoz should’ve fallen on sword because a passenger — a “doctor” who could’ve simply instructed his patients to go to a general hospital emergency room, if necessary, rather than go berserk because he had to make his appointments — refused to comply with a legal airline request and got roughed up as a result by Chicago Aviation agents, who are not controlled by UA. The airline did things by the book.

    The “optics” were definitely bad, but Munoz had no reason to impale himself with his sword over this. The GMA “apology” is simply for PR, and not a ‘mea culpa’ because he’s had a change of heart (Oops! That’s definitely a bad pun in case of Munoz 😉 )

  14. ” I do appreciate him admitting that law enforcement should not be used to forcibly remove passengers who aren’t threatening the safety of others.”

    I think he went beyond that; he explicitly said that if they are unable to get volunteers, NO passenger would be involuntarily removed from a plane by law enforcement. He was extremely definitive about that too.

    The most positive part of this entire story- and one that I think hasn’t been given its due- is the power of social media. Airlines (and corporations in general) have so much power to do what they want, but this time we, the flying public broke through that barrier and held them accountable.

  15. It’s all what his lawyers told him to say. He couldn’t comment on what more Dr. Dao deserves, because that part the lawyers wouldn’t let him talk about. I think he sounded sincere on the matter of not involving law enforcement on an IDB issue – which law enforcement itself never should have been willing to get involved with, and I’d like to see more attention on their horrific performance too. The rest of it was becoming sorry when he learned that this would be devastating to his brand, rather than for what actually happened.

  16. No one outside of UA will know whether Mr. Munoz is sincere in his more heartfelt apology, given the comments he made Monday. But he could move the needle by going on more shows, be subject to more interviewers asking questions forcing him to think about what really defines his airline. Then, as promised, provide what changes will be made by April 30. I’m sure some people will no longer fly UA based on this, but others might think there is enough contrition to give them another chance.

  17. For a PR issue of this magnitude that makes the public feel uneasy, I feel he could have gone further: How about saying that we’ll now never ask a passenger to involuntarily give up their seat (whether they have already boarded the plane or not) because someone else needs it (whether that person is another passenger or a crew member).

    And to really make a splash, how about saying that we are completely ending the practice of overbooking flights. Wouldn’t that be seen as a really positive and cool change? It would put pressure on their competitors, presumably streamline and simplify the process of boarding planes for everyone involved, remove some of the stress of airline travel, and give customers a positive feeling that, as a result, flights won’t feel so crowded and cramped (in economy at least).

  18. United stock is up today, and yesterday it only dropped 1.1%. The markets don’t seem to concerned about the incident: https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/UAL?p=UAL

    Let’s see what passenger numbers look like for April, once they are released in about a month. My guess is there will be little difference — customers quickly forget and will instead still look for the cheapest fare.

  19. The abject shame and contrition is obvious. You know the lawyers aren’t controlling him when he said that the passenger didn’t do anything wrong. His aim is to prove that they are totally ashamed and committed to making things better, period. And he also had no excuses for the BS non apology on the first day, owning up to it. Munoz has a life story of not being a Smisek. This interview gave a glimpse of him, and shows that he’s put his pants on and is owning this debacle.

  20. “The markets don’t seem to concerned about the incident”

    Imagine that! How can that be when self-anointed “travel gurus” have declared this, soon-to-be a minor footnote in the annals of civil aviation, “story of the year”?

  21. I don’t mean to make this about me; however I am a 100K Super Elite AC member for the past 9 years and the reason I keep attaining Super Elite status is flying UNITED domestically (as I am American living in Florida) and with what I saw on that video makes me want to never fly UNITED and thus just attain status as best as I can with AC. To see how UNITED handled this situation is just plain sad and should have never happened. The way the officers behaved as well should be looked into. If I am sitting on the plane having boarded the aircraft I should NEVER be asked to vacate a seat (unless I am unruly or a viable threat). I can’t watch the full video because it just makes me sick as a human being.

  22. Never considered he should resign as a result of this incident, but his initial message was extremely poor shortsighted, and he doesn’t appear “honest” to me in this interview.
    The result will show at the end of the month. United at least has to go to a cash or gift card system, not some lousy discounts that expire in a year. Will be interesting to see if this has any negative impact to boarding process. And the threats by the flight crew that they will not leave unless they get “volunteers” to offload has to stop also.

  23. If they made their stand by crew fly in the luggage compartment, none of this would have happened. Just saying.

  24. Has there been any information as to why the crew members did not fly the jumpseat? There should be one cockpit jumpseat open and at least one FA jumpseat. Hell, even if there was just one jumpseat open, it would have prevented this from happening.

  25. @RCB is exactly right. That pause after being asked if the passenger was wrong was deafening. It says he had to hide his true beliefs that the passenger is some way to blame, but he had to bury that feeling. That was the most telling part of the interview to me.

    I’d still like to know how these four passengers were selected; I don’t think we have a true answer to that.

    Until the IDB compensation is increased and procedures are improved (I, for example, thought you HAD to be given cash for an IDB but it seems the airline can still offer a voucher), similar negative experiences are going to happen.

  26. @RCB @Daniel

    Sure, the pause was deafening. However, it was a leading question. No one can look at what happened and objectively say the passenger wasn’t in some small part to blame. The passenger should have left the aircraft when told. This is not to diminish the whole rest of the catastrophe properly described as a “system failure.” Did UA majorly f* up? Yes. Tremendously. Does the passenger have some minuscule share of the fault? Ummmm (cue the complaints that he wasn’t genuinely sorry).

    I’m frankly shocked that he outright admitted that airlines improperly use law enforcement to threaten aggrieved customers.

  27. @Andy 11235 – Not saying your analysis is wrong, but the CEO is in damage control; he should have answered the question unequivocally as the customer did nothing wrong (and certainly nothing approaching being bloodied from the incident)

    Do I think he did NOTHING wrong? Of course not. But in PR speak, don’t blame the victim.

  28. Rebecca Jarvis is an awesome interviewer, and it’s great she was selected to do the exclusive Muñoz one. She didn’t stop short of asking him why he doesn’t step down as CEO.

  29. Too little, too late. I wasn’t impressed by the heavily scripted interview. Put this man in front of a room of reporters to answer questions and then I may adjust my opinion.

  30. Maybe he is defending his seat as CEO more than defending his company’s brand.

    If not for the massive global outcry, he would not have apologised, and would perhaps more than double down.

    His deafening pause once again, shows how tone-deaf he is.

    Keep your seat.

    And I will keep my wallet in my pocket, and away from your company.

  31. I believe this apology was sincere. There were too many things that I think a lawyer would have told him not to say. There was also, I think, honest emotion and contrition, in direct contrast to Sean Spicer’s unconvincing apologies for his Hitler-not-using-gas remarks. The one thing that seemed disingenuous on Muñoz’ part, was when confronted with his initial comments — which blamed the passenger — he responded that not all the facts were in, and that he waits to make a judgement. That was nonsense; he had already made a judgement agains the passenger, and didn’t wait for the facts. The proof of whether this apology is real will, of course, be in how UA behaves from now on.

  32. I think United have actually done a good deed for many of us.

    They have shown their true colours, with their total disregard for passengers and running their airline efficiently, which allows some consumers, like me, to have the choice made for them to never book United in the future and fly with them.
    One less airline to consider…

    Cheers, United!

  33. I think the CEO and majority of management need to go at United.

    After a public relations fiasco of epic proportions, the CEO says he needs to but better “systems” in place.

    Here’s a tip Mr. CEO your systems pretty much added gasoline to an incendiary situation!!!! No system is going to make it possible for a HUMAN to say. “Hey wait a minute is it fair to kick paying passengers off a flight so that 4 shmoes from backupcrews.com can fly??” “Is it worth causing the resulting very public fiasco to make sure that 40 people can fly early monday? is it is it??? ”

    Mr CEO you need HUMANS to be able to say NOPE! NOPE it’s not worth a Billion dollars and immeasurable brand damage so that 4 late crew dudes can fly 40 Louisville dudes on monday morning!!!!

    Just think about the failures here. when all options were taken to get people off the plane voluntarily the GATE AGENT went to a computer to find 4 victims. A COMPUTER SYSTEM decided to accelerate this fiasco. Then the Gate Agent, whom ever the Gate Agent talked to behind a desk to get ok for kicking paying passengers off, the 4 late crew dudes and even United Flight Attendants all just sat on their hands while a paying customer in a VALID non oversold situation. They sat on their collected hind-ends And allowed their customer to be assaulted just to get the flight out. with late crew dudes so that the monday morning flight would also not be late.

    Now consider that. Every United employee within earshot of this assault wanted departure more than human rights. NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO HAVE A SYSTEM MR CEO. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. HEADS SHOULD ROLL beginning with Gate agent, crew, late crew and anyone else that thought it was ok to stand idly by while a customers human rights were violated.

  34. I think he was clearly sincere…why else admit that the pax was not at all to blame for this incident? If he were insincere he would have been looking at potential lawsuit costs and would have at least said that he couldn’t comment on that. Regardless how the company feels or how the employees feel I think he was sincere in that interview. But he also is running a business that needs to respond for shareholders, this will always result in conflict of ethical behavior vs bottom line.

  35. “better systems”. I can only hope Oscar is speaking of a replacement for SHARES. I mean, c’mon now, that’s the elephant in the room. SHARES gets in the way of employees trying to do the right thing … and could have been a part of this Louisville flight mess.

  36. Who knows when anyone is being honest? I won’t even try to guess. I think the real issue, regardless, is Munoz has a tough job ahead in trying to change the culture of a US airline, particularly UA. After flying a dozen foreign carriers (not all good by the way) you can really feel the difference with US carriers, save maybe SWA. You are a commodity to them, not a person. Cattle to be moved around. There’s no experience, nothing original, just transportation from one place to another. US carriers, for the most part, don’t understand the value of customer experience, not even slightly. They think of you as a package more or less. Getting delivered safely from one place to another. That’s where the originality of the product ends. And it’s sad. I fly UA almost all of the time since I’m near a hub and the flights are convenient and they have a good rewards program. But, I have to say there’s often almost a feeling of disdain for the pax that’s palpable from some of the crew. It’s almost like you are a burden to them. Now, I understand their jobs aren’t easy; passengers can be a pain in the a** and flying around all day in a metal tube just isn’t really fun. And, I have come across a few FAs that are really good, and make you feel wanted, special even. But, there’s something rotten in the industry when the average employee treats you like a problem to be mitigated. Good luck Mr. Munoz.

  37. Look from outside US, the sad part of this story for me is how American treated each other, airlines staff with passengers, passengers with passengers, police with passengers,CEO with staff and passengers and bloggers! We are taking about a human being not a dog drag out of a plane! It is really sad and scary to watch this.

  38. Coming to an end? But you’ve only published 11 articles on the incident, I’m not sure we’ve heard nearly enough about it yet!

  39. Oh, brother, even now he sounds weak, feeble, and really pathetic. I would not trust him — as a leader — as far as I could throw him.

    He was forced into a corner and was defensive, defensive, defensive. Now he is contrite. It stinks of ‘let’s try this.’

    At a million and a half dollars a year salary, all the systems he talks about should have already been in place. Duh.

    That phrase “it is never too late to do the right thing” is idiotic and, I find, is insult to injury. Stop repeating it, foolish man. Of course, it is too late. Of course he should try to recoup his utter failures. But, what a pathetic, 3rd grade way to go about it.

    Nope, I’m not convinced that United is in good hands. Nor do I believe they are any different today than they were on Monday. And, I see no sign that there has been an epiphany. Same old attempts at damage control, but no determination to change significantly.

  40. Good were the days where airline passengers were seen as valuable customers and not as cattle like they are today.

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