Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, has two goals: make United the biggest and the best airline in the world. While United’s fleet growth plans very well may objectively make it the largest airline in the world, Kirby believes that United is already the best airline in the world.
United Airlines CEO Declares Mission Accomplished, Claims United Is Already The “Best” Airline In The World
Kirby turned eyes in 2022 by repeatedly asserting his goal that United become not only the largest airline in the world (which is objectively measurable by a number of factors), but also be the best airline in the world. Now he is declaring “mission accomplished.”
In a New Years’ message to staff reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, Kirby made the case, drawing upon United’s recent handling of winter weather to argue that United has already become the best airline in the world:
Happy cold and difficult holidays, team.
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all that you’ve done over the past week — during what’s been the most challenging weather event I’ve witnessed during my career in aviation. The entire United team really rose to the challenge, and while we weren’t perfect, I think we were the best run airline in the country, especially given our geography and the winter storms hitting Denver, Chicago, Newark, Dulles and all of our line stations.
Our team really came through better than anyone could have expected — connecting more than 90% of our customers with their friends and family. And that’s thanks to all of you and your hard work. You volunteered to pick up extra trips. You braved the brutal cold on the ramp. Above and below the wing, you took care of our customers, and thanks to the teams in the NOC, SOC and crew scheduling, you put schedules back together to get people home.
I often say we’re building the biggest and best airline in the history of aviation. And with our United Next order, we will be the biggest in the near future. But in my estimation, we’ve already become the best airline in the world and it’s our challenge for 2023 to continue to get better and raise the bar every year.
I hope you can enjoy some time with your loved ones.
Happy Holidays, and thank you, all.
Of course, being “best” is inherently subjective and so Kirby can get away with claiming this. But is his claim serious?
Indeed, United should be commended for the excellent way it handled the winter storms. But that does not make United best, because American and Delta also handled the storms quite well (and also have weather-prone hubs).
Unlike some naysayers, I do believe that United Airlines can be the best airline in the world. It already has many elements in place, including:
- a superb domestic and international route network
- an updated fleet of aircraft with power ports and wi-fi and a refreshed interior (this remains a work in progress)
- a solid loyalty program
- an impeccable record of safety
- the best business class bedding in the sky
- an industry-leading mobile app
What United must improve upon is service and catering onboard. This matters if United wants to be taken seriously when claiming the title of the best airline in the world. That starts with flight attendants who do not just go through the motions but proactively serve passengers with such compassion and attentiveness that people have to pinch themselves to be reminded they are on a US carrier.
Catering must also improve. United is laying the foundation with pre-orders on select domestic routes, but pre-orders should be available on all routes. Furthermore, the food must rotate more often, ingredients must be fresher, and the presentation improved.
Nothing here is insurmountable.
Kirby is already claiming “mission accomplished” when it comes to United being the best airline in the world. His celebration his premature: he would be wise to learn from others that there is more work to be done before claiming victory. But importantly, with the right ingredients that goal truly is possible. Hopefully United will work toward it in 2023.
image: @scottkirby / Instagram