New United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz Kicks Off Tenure with Apology

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Major corporations aren’t generally known for being very contrite. New United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, however, would like his company to get off to a fresh start with consumers and has come right out of the gate saying, “Hey, we’re sorry, and we aim to be better.”

The airline published an open letter to consumers in 13 different publications on Thursday, such as the Chicago Tribune, in which Munoz, who only took the job three weeks ago, wrote, “we haven’t lived up to your expectations,” and promising to “show that we’re listening.”

This comes on the heels of Munoz visiting with UA employees in Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C. and Nashville in recent weeks with stops in Newark and Dulles also planned, Skift reports. Just to make sure he left no employee alone, he also promised to give them “the right tools to deliver the service and reliability I know we are capable of,” in a letter to them last weekend.

The move recalls Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” campaign that launched in December 2009, or as Bloomberg called it, a “mea culpa marketing campaign” that was remarkable for its blunt honesty and outreach to consumers.

If Munoz’s action weren’t enough, he also announced the launch of UnitedAirTime.com, a site for consumers to air their thoughts on United to the company. According to United, the site attracted more than 2,000 responses in the first day of launch.

According to Time, the airline “will use it to strive not only to honestly answer customer and employee questions and concerns, but also to implement their input.” Along with that will come stories about employees, customers and company news that will showcase how the company is listening to what the world is telling it.

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Right now, Munoz is all ears, and he’s heard plenty on his listening tour of how life with United hasn’t been the same for consumers since the brand merged with Continental five years ago. As the Houston Chronicle notes, there has been plenty of “poor customer service, flight delays, bad labor relations and lots of lost luggage.” Munoz notes the company was too focused on the bottom line and not enough on the relationship with customers who drive the business. “That is at the crux of the problem at United in the last few years,” he said, as reported by Time.

Part of the new United is something that has actually been in the works for some time: the brand’s new in-flight safety video. Its release, though, is nicely timed to coincide with the brand’s new vibe. It goes well out of its way to keep customers engaged, featuring a bagpipe player in a Scottish castle, a wedding on a tropical island, a camera-loving llama in South America, a dragon party in Asia, some references to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” and a rollercoaster of a golf-cart ride, among plenty of other visually and aurally interesting things.

In addition, United Airlines has introduced a new cabin design that will slowly roll out through its planes. As slow as that will be, Munoz clearly wants the opposite to be true of his message to consumers and employees: If you’ve got some issue with us, whether it is the comfort of the seats or the service, let us know. At least for now, the customer is king at United Airlines.

Following is the full text of Munoz’s letter:

To our passengers, my fellow employees and the communities where we live and work,

Today marks five years since Continental and United Airlines combined. Over that time we have added destinations, invested in our fleet and upgraded our airport experience, but the journey hasn’t always been smooth. Simply put, we haven’t lived up to your expectations or to the promise and potential of that day.

That’s going to change. We are committed to re-earning your trust. We want to be the first choice for every trip you take. We want to be an amazing place to work. And we want to be a great neighbor. That means we have to innovate. We need to do the small things well. We have to deliver meaningful, everyday improvements.

Accomplishing these things will not be easy, but we will put in the hard work needed to get there. My singular mission is to engage our passengers and employees every step of the way. I want to hear and implement your good ideas. I promise to show that we’re listening and report on our progress.

My goal is for you to look forward to flying United, and to be as proud to work for United, as I am to lead United. So please, tell me what we can do to make that happen at UnitedAirtime.com.

Sincerely,

Oscar

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