For United CEO Scott Kirby, the stakes are high. Attracting passengers back to United Airlines will require more than a vaccine; it will require a genuine feel of safety onboard. Per Kirby, that starts with masks. That’s why he is warning United employees that they better mask up or face termination.
United CEO To Employees: Wear Mask Or Face Termination
With an effective vaccine production and distribution, Kirby sees recovery taking off in 2021 and full demand returning in 2022. But as United enters an “intermediate phase” of waiting, Kirby laid down the law in a video address to employees viewed by Live and Let’s Fly.
His Thanksgiving video address covered many topics, but his stark warning on masks stood out:
“But while I’m really excited about what 2022 and beyond will look like, we have got to remain focused and disciplined during this intermediate phase. I’ve heard increasing reports about mask compliance as a prime example.
We can’t let our guard down. It’s so important that we make sure that we keep safety protocols number one as we go though the crisis. We’re an airline. And at an airline, safety is number one. When we talk about the core4, we talk about safety as the number one issue, and this is a safety issue.
And so I’ve asked our leadership team to buckle down on making sure we enforce mask compliance and all of the safety protocols. And I hope it doesn’t mean this, but it can mean termination. Because, while I would hate to lose anyone from the United team over mask compliance, I would hate even more to lose you permanently over lack of mask compliance.”
I do think Kirby understands the stakes. Masks are about optics just as much as they are about providing actual safety. That’s not to dismiss their objective help in containing the spread of virus, but merely to observe that masks provide a psychological security blanket as well.
When employees, especially those in uniform, do not wear masks or wear them improperly, people begin to question other elements of safety as well. Trust is quickly forfeited and the result is lost business, potentially on a long-term basis.
For Kirby, masks are not just about safety, but about revenue. That’s a right and proper way to look at them and his warning to employees is absolutely on point. I’ve flown a lot on United over the last couple months and have not witnessed a member of ground staff or flight crew improperly wearing a mask even once. But even a small problem–a few bad apples–can rot the tree. The new warning is direct, but reasonable.