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Airline quarterly earnings conference calls can generally be rather boring: prepared statements from the airline’s management, financial data and questions from financial analysts about financial minutia. All of that mundanity can come to a sharp end when it’s time for the press to start asking questions. (This is especially true when its an airline that just made international news for bloodying and then dragging a customer off one of its planes.)
That’s why you could sense everyone’s ears perking up when it was time for media questions in yesterday’s United earnings call. After deflecting questions about whether or not bookings are dropping due to the incident, a reporter from Bloomberg got the chance to ask this question:
There’s certainly some conjecture that somebody could lose his job over the situation last week. Can you say at the board level or in the management level, was there any of that founded? Was there ever talk of anyone losing their job within management, lower down?
It’s a valid question. After all, the incident has dealt United’s reputation a terrible blow. United CEO Oscar Munoz certainly hasn’t handled the United 3411 situation well. Munoz initially called the passenger “disruptive and belligerent” in a memo to employees and then publicly apologized only for “reaccomodating” the passengers on United 3411 — before issuing a proper apology the next day. Critics have called for him to resign or for the United board to fire him.
To his credit, PRWeek’s 2017 Communicator of the Year jumped right in to answer this question yesterday:
The buck stops here, and I’m sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally. I’ve met with the board and the board has met independently and we’ve had fulsome conversations … but, to your specific question, again, it was a system failure across various areas. So no, there was never a consideration for firing an employee or anyone around it.
Whether or not some may think that the gate agents or flight attendants may have acted inappropriately, United is sticking with all of its employees involved with the situation. And this seems to include the CEO himself.
This is a smart move. United management is avoiding alienating its employees rather than making a front-line employee a scapegoat for the incident. Apart from this incident, Munoz has been viewed as an excellent addition to the team in his limited time as CEO. It looks like United is more than ready to just put this incident behind it — especially once the final report is issued on April 30.
Do you agree with United’s decision to not fire any employees?
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