United CEO Says Seat Pitch Likely Can’t Get Any Smaller

Apr 24, 2019

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Everyone who’s flown on an airplane in recent years knows that if you’re in coach, you’re likely not going to be enjoying the flying experience.

And in a world full of devaluations and passenger experience cuts that are explained by “we’re just responding to customer requests” — we heard a surprisingly candid and honest response from United CEO Oscar Munoz that appears to acknowledge that the flying experience has become more stressful and uncomfortable.

Munoz’s comments come from a recent interview with ABC News, where the CEO riffed on the state of the airline industry.

“Seats keep on getting smaller. Has that stopped? Have we reached the smallest we’re going to get?” asked David Kerley, ABC’s senior transportation correspondent.

“I think we’re nearing a point certainly that we can’t do that anymore,” Munoz responded.

While Munoz didn’t say anything about increasing pitch on United aircraft (the airline’s been slowing putting more seats on aircraft) it’s good to hear he at least recognizes there’s an issue.

Seat pitch certainly isn’t the only thing customers complain about. Munoz said the entire flying process is quite stressful from getting to the airport itself and going through the TSA.

“Frankly by the time you sit in one of our aircraft and one of our seats, you’re just pissed at the world,” said Munoz “And I don’t care what coffee or cookie or smile I give you.”

As fares drop lower and lower (i.e. basic economy) and airlines consistently match each other on price, it becomes more apparent that carriers will have to start competing on service.

“The competition is less about price discounts and more about the experience and the service, and I think at the end of the day it’s better for the customer,” said Munoz.

Improving the airline’s spotty WiFi situation is another priority for Munoz, who’s managing four different internet providers on different aircraft.

“We will fix that,” said Munoz. “Frankly we would stop a lot of our growth if we could just stop and find the right provider and get that done. That’s how important WiFi is to us.”

Featured Image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

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