United’s Latest Customer Email

United took great strides yesterday towards wrapping up the unfortunate incident that occurred when Dr. Dao was forcibly separated from his seat and dragged off his Chicago to Louisville flight.

First, they announced ten policy changes that are designed to insure this type of thing never happens again. Then they reached an undisclosed settlement with Dr. Dao, allowing them to avoid dragging the case out in court. And finally they sent another email to customers in which they again apologize for what happened, acknowledge some shortcomings that led to the situation, and promise to do better.

United

Here is the letter from Oscar Munuz in its entirety:

Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It’s not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.

Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.

For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?

It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.

Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it’s my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.

That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.

We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.

We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new “no-questions-asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.

I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society. If our chief good as a company is only getting you to and from your destination, that would show a lack of moral imagination on our part. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.

Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, “I fly United.”

Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.

We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.

With Great Gratitude,
Oscar Munoz
CEO
United Airlines

My thoughts

I think the overall tone of the letter is appropriate and continues to help make the point that management understands the problem. In fact, I think Munoz really hits the nail on the head by acknowledging that United’s corporate policies got in the way of letting their employees do the right thing.

He also makes the somewhat obvious, yes still important, statement that he wants us to proudly say “I Fly United.” Because to be honest, it hasn’t been much fun to tell people that that I’m a Premier 1K lately. So it’s good that Munoz seems to get that and knows that they need to do better.

The part that seemed a little out of left field was including the change in compensation for permanently lost bags. I mean, that’s nice and all, but I’m struggling to see what it has to do with this. It was included as the last policy change, almost as though they tossed it in because ten changes sounded better than nine. So in some ways, it seems like dragging lost bags into this took him off message and distracted from the primary issue. Then again, I’m sure it will resonate with some folks.

Bottom line

I’m impressed with the speed at which United was able to wrap up this situation. After making a mess of the initial response, they’ve mostly been saying all the right things since, even if we might doubt the sincerity of those statements. Interestingly, the subject of the latest email is “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” Well, they’ve finally taken action in terms of fixing the policies, but now it comes down to execution. And that is really all that matters.

We shall see.

What do you make of the the latest email from United?

Comments

  1. They stopped interlining with Middle Eastern Airlines today. They rolled out Basic Economy to multiple markets last week and include the phrasing that you can’t sit together with your family.

    ACTIONS DO SPEAK LOUDER THEN WORDS (caps for effect)!

  2. It is nice how OMAAT has three different loyalty program status members, Lucky and Tiffany American, Travis United, Nick Delta. Now I just want to see Nick post more!

  3. While I really think UA is trying to make things right, I don’t think as CEO I would ever publicize a policy that up to $10K per VDB is something I would focus on. It seems to easy to game if you ask me, but I guess we will see how it shakes out in the market. One could assume it would at least double the current VDB costs.

  4. What about creating a separate department with ombudsman powers that can be contacted anytime via phone or social media to report from the plane or the ground any concerns or incidents involving employees interpreting their powers too widely?

  5. @Dereck they also have said they won’t oversell to the same degree that they have in the past. I doubt they’ll ever have to actually pay that much. Although if I had the time I’d love to take a VDB for $10K, someone else would undercut me and I’d never see it.

  6. @derek – I agree with you. That policy shows the ceiling, why would anyone budge for $400 in vouchers if they know they can get thousands? And certainly everyone on the plane will have a different price but it just got a lot higher than $400 or $800.

    @travis – I’m confused how a settlement with UA is the only settlement we’ll see in this case. Dao’s lawyers seem competent, I’m sure they’re going after the police/security agency as well. All I’ve heard from OMAAT is about the UA settlement and nothing about the brutality from the security people. I’d have to guess that all of the details will hit the media as part of that suit, when we hear about it. How about some coverage there, or at least do some looking into what other suits he could file from this incident.

  7. And @Travis, I’m tired of getting UA email on this subject. If UA is really committed to being a good airline then it’s time to start acting like one. They can change all sorts of policies and they can spam me about their changes but until they start acting like they mean it absolutely nothing will change.

  8. Everyone should email Oscar and let him know UA needs to stop the rollout of Basic Economy if they respect customers.

  9. @Robert – I’d rather bid low at $500 and get the payment than go too high and never get it. $500 is a lot of money for a lot of people, and the new automated VDB system is a blind reverse auction after all.

  10. I don’t get too concerned with the ten thousand dollar amount. It’s not going to happen. If I’m a doc and I have patients to see the next day, $10,000 isn’t going to cut it. I have a reputation worth a lot more. If my family member’s funeral or end of life moment is at the other end of that plane, $10,000 isn’t going to cut it. On the other hand, if I’m going wherever; way less just might suffice.

  11. I was disappointed receiving the letter. I know I’m in the minority, but I feel the doctor was completely at fault by repeatedly refusing to leave the plane. He should have left when told to by the crew. If he had just left, there’d have been no problem.

  12. I am already proud to say “I fly United”.

    My friends think I’ve got balls when I do, cos they’re all scared to get re-accomodated. Doing that makes me look tough.

  13. @Tmart you’re a twat. Do you acquiesce with everything in life. Sound like a soft cock to me.

  14. I stopped flying UA out of my free will about 15 years ago (sometimes I can’t avoid) and I never regretted to do so. Eventhough I believe that Munoz is serious about what he says, the organzational change is so enormous that I don’t think its reasonably possible, I’m afraid.

  15. I was scratching my head over the Bags thing too. The most relevant thing I could think of and even that is a stretch is that some people are unwilling to get bumped because they are afraid their bags will fly without them and get lost and United’s current policy on lost bag compensation is too much of a pain.
    The other thing is he could have just asked the customer service department give me the top 5 complaints from customers and what we can do to reduce them and lost bag compensation was on the list alongwith FAs request for some way of compensating people on the the flight itself for things like broken seats, broken ICE, spilled coffee etc hence the app

  16. I fly UA quite often. Ive been ask to give up my seat. There were a few times I was not on a time crunch and volunteered. I happily accepted the vouchers and used them the next time i flew. The gate personel are the only UA employees I have issue with. I brush their attitudes off chalking it up to the stresses of the job or such. I do feel the good Dr could have simply held his ground to a point, however most people with common sense would have give in when it escalated as he should have also. That being said, the use of force was rediculous. I do feel UA has done right this far and O hope it continues to be so.

  17. I enjoy to fly with United Airlines they have a great service and nice persons with my best regards.

  18. Nope. No apology is acceptable. The level of this altercation is inexcusable and I have vowed not to fly United again. When employees “draw blood” from a paying passenger for whatever reason, it’s a deal breaker for me. Going forth I will not approve any employee in my organization to fly United anywhere.

  19. to a TechLady
    couldn’t agree more
    inanition, the basic economy fair and terrible seats that are created to torture us and to harm us are not customer friendly at all. Until these are resolved, I am flying jet blue/ Virgin America or anyone else if I can help it.
    I don’t understand how Munoz is better then the guy before- he is the one who implemented the basic economy fair.

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