The United Airlines Board of Directors has been silent this week over the UA3411 controversy. Until now.
In a letter directed to employees, the Chairman Robert Milton offers his take on what happened and what United will do about it. The full letter–
Dear fellow members of the United family,
We on the board of directors have been meeting and talking regularly this week and working with Oscar and the management team in the aftermath of Sunday’s terrible event. We are deeply sorry and upset about what happened, and our apologies and sympathies go to Dr. David Dao and all those on UA 3411.
We are supporting Oscar and his team as they work to assure that something like this does not happen again. That means, as you have heard, changes to our policies of when we will ask law enforcement officers to come onto our planes and our procedures when there is an oversold situation.
But we have to learn from this incident and do more than merely make sure it does not happen again. We need to use this regrettable event as a defining moment and pivot off it to craft friendly policies and redouble our efforts to win back the trust of everyone – something I know we will do. United Airlines is a great company, with tens of thousands of professional people committed to safety and devoted to serving our customers. The management team is exploring a lot of creative initiatives, and the board will give them the support they require to redouble our efforts to be truly customer-focused in everything we do, every hour of the day, the world over.
Our company will need your ideas and everyone’s ideas, large and small, on how we can bring a smile to the faces of our customers with acts of kindness, service, respect, and understanding. We will need to think creatively and be dedicated to this purpose with true and sustained intensity. We will need to organize around it, build a culture that values it, and processes that facilitate it. When we do, we will have used this sad event as the catalyst to build a better airline that enables us to feel pride in how we make other people’s lives better.
All my best,
Robert A. Milton, Chairman of the Board, United Airlines
The Last Paragraph is Key
The last paragraph strikes me as the most important. If bringing a smile to the face of a customer becomes an end in itself, a separate policy goal from the ultimate goal of making money, we will see an improvement in customer service.
As in everything, how far United goes to bring a smile to the face of a customer will be determined by cost/benefit analysis. United’s Surprise and Delight program certainly brought a smile to my face when I was invited to bypass even Global Service members to board a flight first.
But United’s target needs to be the inexperienced and occasional flyers, not frequent flyers who are used to United and do not plan to deviate.
I share the Board’s hope that this incident will be “a defining moment” that, when scrutinized many years into the future, will be seen as the moment that redefined the way United treats its customers.
Top image courtesy of United