United Airlines admits it’s been making customers and employees miserable

No one here is happy.
No one here is happy.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Lott
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Airline mergers are often a pain for customers and employees alike. The 2010 absorption of Continental Airlines by United Airlines is a classic example: years later, United is still struggling with customer service and operational disruptions stemming from the merger. Adding to the turmoil is the loss of United CEO Jeff Smisek, who abruptly resigned last month in scandal.

His successor, Oscar Munoz, is now offering something unexpected: An apology.

“This integration, this merger … has not gone as well as it could have. We just have to lay that out there for folks,” Munoz, a little more than three weeks into his role, said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “I would think we could want to offer a better product.”

Criticism of United over the past few years has been vicious and plentiful, as the airline has been plagued by a series of technical issues, service gaffes, and labor disputes—all while reporting record profit, thanks to low fuel costs and the company’s competitive position as the second-largest global airline by miles flown.

Munoz spoke to the Tribune with contrition about United’s inadequate attention toward customers, and pledged to improve the services offered to employees as well. Some of his suggested changes include modifications to the airline’s add-on fees, better onboard coffee, and lower bereavement fares.

Separately, in an open letter sent by United to 13 publications, Munoz wrote:

Simply put, we haven’t lived up to your expectations or to the promise and potential of that day. That’s going to change. We are committed to re-earning your trust. We want to be the first choice for every trip you take. We want to be an amazing place to work. And we want to be a great neighbor. That means we have to innovate.

He also offered an apology to customers in a video posted by United.