Oscar Munoz, the United Airlines CEO who overcame a heart attack and heart transplant surgery, may not be able to overcome an incident that has galvanized the nation and indeed the world. Is Munoz in danger of losing his job?
I’ve been shocked by the number of comments and tweets I have received over the past 24 hours calling on Oscar Munoz to either step down or be removed. Munoz’s public statement on the dragging incident and letter to employees aroused outcry. Many declared Munoz out of touch and more have called for his head in exchange for the wounded head of the doctor dragged off Flight 3411.
My question to those who want to see Munoz go: what would it solve?
Even as I defended Munoz’s need to back his employees, I lamented his tone deaf response to the incident. But for those who demand a sacrificial lamb to atone for the dragging incident, should Oscar be the chosen one? For those who say yes, I ask these three questions:
First, how does removing Munoz solve the problem? The involuntary-denied-boarding policy may need revisiting. The method of removing unwilling passengers by brute force certainly must be disavowed. Shouldn’t Munoz be given a chance to conduct the promised investigation and weigh what policy changes should be made?
Second, who will take his place? Bring Brett Hart back? He’s an ex-Continental guy as well with a similar mindset. Scott Kirby? I’m sure he’d want it but his leadership tenure is marked by a steep regression of the customer experience at American Airlines. At the helm of United Airlines would he dismantle recent clawbacks in pursuit of short-term profit? Someone from the outside? Who? Munoz may not be perfect but you cannot talk about replacing him without talking about who his replacement would be.
Third, is retribution really necessary? As always in situations like these, there are calls for someone’s head to roll. But bloodlust reflects an “eye for eye” mentality that does not necessarily promote justice. Can’t valuable lessons be learned without revenge? Wasn’t the violent Chicago Airport Police Officer the proper person to be placed on leave?
I don’t believe removing Munoz is the right move. However, he now faces a greater trust deficit with the public than ever before. It is imperative that he recalibrates his words to express unequivocal empathy for the injured man, even if he sincerely believes man was at fault. It is an optics issue now. How ironic that Munoz was awarded PR Week’s “Communicator Of The Year” award just a few days ago.