The Dog Days at United Airline
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March 20, 2018 - AirInsight
United Airline's recent difficulties with animals on board, in which a flight attendant forced a passenger to place a dog in an animal carrier in the overhead bid, resulting in the animal's death, followed days later sending a dog destined for Kansas to Tokyo, followed shortly thereafter by a flight diversion because an animal was inadvertently on board, has highlighted the customer service problems that have plagued the airline over the last couple of years. The beating of a doctor who was forcibly removed from a United Express (Republic) flight last year was brought up again in social media, illustrating the disarray perception at United.
United's real problem is the question of who is in charge. Oscar Munoz, the Chief Executive Officer, had a heart attack a couple of years ago and has a varied background, most recently at CSX, a railroad. While he is now fully recovered, that absence resulted in the Board of Directors hiring a new President, Scott Kirby, who is responsible for operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning, and revenue management. Formerly President of American Airlines, Scott comes from a different culture than United and was historically viewed as the chief competitor, given the dueling airline hubs at Chicago O'Hare, United's home, and keystone hub. The United board, which has become more active, has also sent mixed messages regarding corporate governance and key issues and did not name Munoz as Chairman, instead retaining independent leadership.
The question of whom is responsible for these major customer service failures that have negatively impacted the airline remains unanswered, as well as what actions United will be taking to ensure that they don't happen again. Fortunately, while we haven't seen any passengers beaten up over denied boarding compensation recently, customer service failures routinely happen on United. An article compared United's 18 animal deaths last year to only 2 at American. When problems approach an order of magnitude difference between two industry competitors, something is wrong at the top.
What should United's board do? First...