Oscar Munoz, Get Your Baggage At The Claim

Jim Sumpter Freelance Writer
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I have always wanted to be financially wealthy. The Lord has blessed me with so much in my life, but to this point, wealth has eluded me.

The opportunities for wealth creation have been abundant, but something always happened that upended it; there’s no denying the fault lies wth me, but even in my long history of doing dumb things at inopportune times, I have never done anything quite as stupid as what Mr. Oscar Munoz, President and CEO of United Airlines did following the video going viral of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United jet, due to overbooking.

Here’s a guy making millions of dollars a year, heading a company that has a video sleazing its way all over social media showing a man being manhandled by airport security, slammed into an arm rest, his face bloodied, being dragged down the aisle as he’s wimpering in pain – all on a United plane – and Mr. Munoz’s response/explanation of an incident, causing a world-wide uproar directed specifically at United, refers to it as a “passenger re-accomodation”!?!

To be fair to Mr. Munoz (although I can’t think of any reason why fair treatment should be extended to Mr. Munoz for his role in this), in all probability, the statement did not capture Mr. Munoz’s words, but was some sort of amalgamation of the “work” of PR people and and the all-too-careful language of lawyers; nonetheless, any CEO who could watch that video and not realize its potentially tremendously negative impact upon the perception of United Airlines, has no business being the CEO of a company with more than 1 employee.

Now, it starts getting scary. The forcibly removed passenger is a 69-year old doctor who is an immigrant to the USA who needed to get home to make his rounds to see patients the next morning and therefore was certainly a high-priority traveler. The scenario gets murkier in terms of the treatment of the doctor/passenger, who has been in trouble with the law and lost his license to practice medicine years ago as a result of some questionable prescription policies, laced with alleged aggressive homosexual advances toward an employee, and you’ve got a first class, low-rent WTF situation.

Mr. Munoz should’ve been able to sleepwalk through adroit handling of this, but instead appears to have reached for the gasoline, threw it on the blaze, and in the process got burned by the additional self-generated heat.

The airlines have employed the genius of virtually auctioning off their seats to maximize the profitability of each flight – book early, travel for less; book late, pay through the nose. So why don’t they employ the same strategy in enticing passengers to voluntarily being bumped from a flight?

By media accounts, United offered a hotel room and a $400 to give up one’s seat. When there were no takers, they bumped it to $800. Still no takers, the airline told its passengers the computer would select the name(s) of those who would be bumped.

Classic cold-hearted, we-can-make-you-do-what-we-want-you-to-do attitude on the part of the airlines.

Why couldn’t they have made it fun? Offer a hotel stay, tickets to Disney World, and $100 cash. No takers? Hotel stay, tickets to Disney World and $200 cash. No takers? You get the drift.

I’ll bet they would have had volunteers before they ever got to their pre-arranged $800 bounty. And so what if it would have gone up? Would it not have been chump change compared to harm done to United’s image through the wide dissemation of this video? And does anyone believe there’s not a gargantuan lawsuit on the horizon?

It’s a tragedy to see a geezer getting physically assaulted when it was so needless. It’s a tragedy to see a company so incredibly botch a situation whose game plan and strategy should have been thought out well in advance.

Planes are often overbooked. And this is the airlines’ (or at the very least United’s) action plan?

Mr. Munoz missed this because of the attitude that permeates the airlines: sit down, buckle up, shut up or get off. Or we’ll take you off. Mr. Munoz watched a video that horrified his customers and he apparently saw “just another day at the office.”

So amid all the chatter about what this means to United’s future, one thing appears certain: It’s just a matter of time until Mr. Munoz’s personal effects are ready for pick up at baggage claim.