I’ve been watching the joint United Airlines – Boeing press conference this morning in Charleston, South Carolina and it struck me as noteworthy how United CEO Scott Kirby framed the deal to purchase up to 200 Boeing 787 jets in terms of patriotism and loyalty.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby Focuses On Patriotism, Loyalty At Boeing 787 Signing Ceremony
Both on a press call that I took part in yesterday and at the official press conference this morning, Kirby repeatedly emphasized that United’s big aircraft order will create domestic US jobs and burnish manufacturing within the USA. I love this aspect of the deal as well, but I found it to be an interesting point of focus because I am not sure whether an airline that is principally rooted in maximizing shareholder value should be concerned about the country in which jobs are created (versus the quality and price of the aircraft).
Perhaps indirectly you could say more high-paying jobs in the USA produce more customers for United, but I still found it an interesting observation. The result of the deal, however, is cause for celebration for the US economy, even as Airbus also operates an assembly line in the USA (Alabama).
Secondly, Kirby framed the deal in terms of loyalty and told a story in order to make the point at the press conference. Back when he was at US Airways, he was negotiating with Boeing over a deal to purchase 787 Dreamliners. He wanted the best price possible but Boeing politely declined, saying it had promised the best pricing to Continental Airlines and it would keep its word.
Kirby was upset at the time, but when he pivoted from American Airlines to United Airlines, which merged with Continental a few years earlier, he knew he could trust Boeing to give United the cheapest price for the aircraft.
It’s a nice story that illustrates both Kirby’s longevity in the industry, his negotiating prowess, and the importance of loyalty (if everyone gets the “best” price, no one gets the best price).
You can watch his remarks below:
United Airlines has ordered 100 new 787 Dreamliner jets, 100 737 MAX, and holds an option for 100 more 787s. It’s a big day for both Boeing and United. As Kirby reflects upon what brought the deal together, he has focused on patriotism and loyalty, a reminder that there is far more than pricing at play in the long-term battle between Airbus and Boeing.