In case you didn’t see it, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a mea culpa yesterday, apologizing for the horrible handling of “re-accommodating” a passenger who was left bloodied and dazed after security thugs dragged him from his seat.
While many outraged consumers vowed to #neverflyunited, as a frequent traveler, I often do not have the luxury of being choosing when it comes to flights, due to price and scheduling considerations, but now I don’t have to feel guilty about flying United again. And I do love that the subject line of his email letter was “Actions Speak Louder than Words,” which happens to be my favorite adage.
As a PR professional, I was astounded at the blunders United made immediately following this incident, but clearly they are feeling the sting of disappointing their client base, as in financially they are taking a hit, so they are doing the right thing by upping their compensation for involuntary removal from a flight due to overbooking to $10,000, and they are raising their reimbursement for permanently lost luggage to $1,500 – no questions asked.
I applaud these moves to regain consumer loyalty and trust, and I hope this puts pressure on other airlines to follow suit, though I do have to wonder if people will start purposely buying tickets on overbooked flights or doing everything they can to “lose” their luggage; but hopefully this will simply signal a turn for passenger rights, a movement that started several years ago but still have not put consumers in the pilot’s seat.
Here’s Munoz’ letter 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. 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,