Delta CEO Ed Basitan does not agree with United CEO Oscar Munoz’s assessment of how passengers feel by the time they step onto a plane.
Last month, Munoz told ABC News that by the time passengers stepped onto any United aircraft, they were already “pissed” at the world.
It’s become so stressful, from when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security…Frankly, by the time you sit on one of our aircraft …you’re just pissed at the world and I don’t care what coffee or cookie or smile I’ll give you, you’re just ready to…”
His assessment drew a mixed reaction, with some defending him for “telling it like it is” while others questioning not only what angers passengers (airlines, not airports) but how a CEO could just accept that, even if it true.
> Read More: United CEO Oscar Munoz Embraces His Inner-Kirby
Speaking to the radio program Marketplace, Bastian was asked if he agreed with Munoz’s statement. He replied:
I disagree. Those certainly aren’t Delta customers he’s speaking too. We find our Net Promoter Score, which is how we track customer satisfaction is at an all-time high at Delta. For the first quarter, we just scored a 50 in terms of grade. That grade 10 years ago was about a 20. Today it’s up to a 50. You know, this industry is about more just airplanes and technology, it is about people. And we have wonderful people that provide great service. So, I just flew in from Atlanta and it was a great flight. I didn’t see anyone upset. I thought everyone really enjoyed the experience and arrived early!
You could argue that the question was a softball lobbed up to him. What else is he going to say? At the same time, I do think it represents a fundamentally different way United and Delta think about their customers. FYI, a Net Promoter Score is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships.
> Read More: Delta CEO “Encourages” Boeing CEO
My take is that Bastian is correct. Airlines can play a key role in reducing the stress of air travel. There is no need for airlines to simply surrender to the notion that passengers will simply be angry. That is not my experience and a smile and a cookie can absolutely go a long way.
Who is right, Bastian or Munoz?
I think Bastian and the entire board should be required to fly one long haul economy round trip in a regular middle seat each quarter. Further, I think their families should be only flying regular economy at all times. Want to know what the vast majority of your customers are experiencing? Fly with them.
that would be fun to see!!
Actually he traded his first class seat with a passenger in economy if you watched the video from Marketplace
For part of the flight.
Every quarterly earnings call starting in Richard Anderson’s time has featured their net promoter scores. I think they view that as linked to the revenue premium they earn compared to United and American. The last score I saw for American was a net promoter score of 2…a long way from Delta.
They know, for instance, that the net promoter scores is five points higher when a customer rides in an A321 compared to a MD88. I suspect they will roll out free internet shortly to try to boost their scores up to the area occupied by Alaska, Jet Blue, and Southwest.
Of course, Bastian is correct. I thought that Oscar’s comments were pretty poor from a PR standpoint. And I’ve been hoping that he simply fumbled (badly) an attempt at making a point … at least that’s what I want to believe. Perhaps he was attempting to play the empathy card??? But after 20+ years of flying with UA, I’m still pretty excited to get on a flight. And I’m reminded of how fun it is to board a plane to Europe in the summer, where almost everyone, regardless of cabin, seems very excited for the trip ahead. (Long time reader, first time poster!)
Net Promoter Score, which is how we track customer satisfaction is at an all-time high at Delta
NPS is crap according to its inventor and reported in the Wall Street Journal this past Thursday or Friday.
I am not angry by the time I board because I know many of the tricks of travel. However, I believe that at least half have a sour taste in their mouth by the time they board.
It is countries like North Korea that say “everything is wonderful, we vote 100%, not 99.9% for Kim Jong Un and have a voter turnout of 99.9998%,” Same with Delta. Delta, your attitude is like North Korea. Not all is bad as I consider Delta to be an ok airline, not a terrible airline.
I suspect Munoz at United and Parker at AA tend to think of passengers as (often-times) temperamental cargo that must be transported from point A to point B as cheaply/efficiently as possible. While Bastian’s comments were self-promoting to a degree, I agree Delta has a more passenger/customer-friendly philosophy regarding their passengers. Unfortunately, my home airport is IAD, so I’m largely stuck with United.
Luke my home airport is IAD too and I manage to avoid United most of the tome. The loss of Jetblue however is nearly unbearable
Muñoz showed himself to be a complete buffoon with that comment. First, it was a terrible thing to say from a PR perspective. It’s essentially unabashed victim blaming. And it’s furthered by reading between the lines as if he meant to say United is in a no-win situation because pax are already upset, so it excuses UA’s terrible service. Second, it’s just utter rubbish as a “fact”. Pax are agitated because they’re anticipating an awful airline experience before they get to the airport, merely exacerbated by nonsense that takes place getting to the airport then once there with TSA and such. Just because the dissatisfaction occurs prior to boarding the plane or interacting with the airline does NOT mean the airline is not the cause of said dissatisfaction. What a dipshit.
I don’t think Ed is completely off the hook with his Pollyanna-ish take on Delta, but he definitely has a position of advantage over Oscar.
United not my fav airline choice.( GA’s and FA’s can be in a BAD MOOD)..but Delta has the mean gate agents in ATLANTA to even it out!!
I think Ed is totally correct. Saying we can’t do anything because the customer is already upset is a ridiculous claim. Oscar *should* have said is, “The customer is already upset when they get on the plane. It’s our job to turn that around by having a great product. We can offer better food and drink, have inflight entertainment and make sure our crew is welcoming.”
@Jeff: agree. Well said.