Effective immediately, United’s Jeff Smisek is stepping down from his positions as chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer, Oscar Munoz is now United’s president and chief executive officer and he will also continue to serve on United’s board of directors. A shareholder conference call is expected at 5:30pm EDT.
It’s no secret that I’m not a Smisek fan. Even if he did give me a framed photo of me sitting at his desk.
-He created a United flight called the Chairman’s flight for Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in exchange for projects that United wanted in Newark. This seems to be what has caused his sudden departure, though it’s not what has made him one of the most vilified airline CEOs of all time.
-He’s done everything in his power to chase away and anger elites. Not a good idea to refer to your best customers as over-entitled…
-Smisek’s United devalued the once industry leading MileagePlus program, which was the only excuse for many for sticking to a substandard airline.
-The new United.com is a hot mess. It’s been down for much of the day today, it’s very slow, and it has been full of bugs and errors causing people to book elsewhere. It stripped out vital functionality from the old site. And it has security holes.
-Mr. Smisek claims that an airline can’t do anything to create demand but can only react to it. This despite the fact that the man who hired him, Gordon Bethune, wrote in his excellent book “From Worst to First” exactly how that kind of reactionary thinking is what nearly drove Continental out of business is the early 90s. Or as he put it, “You can make a pizza so cheap, nobody will eat it. You can make an airline so cheap, nobody will fly it.”
Gordon is revered as one of the best airline CEOs of all-time. I only wish United would have been able to coax him out of retirement just to right their ship. Then again Mr Bethune once caught flak for calling United “HIV-Positive”…
Bethune’s successor Larry Kellner ran a tight ship as well, but was forced out of Continental for not wanting to merge with United. And that’s what brought us Mr. Smisek, a merger that has benefited noone, and a sorry excuse for an airline:
Smisek promised “changes we were going to like” when he merged Continental with United. After years of devaluing both mileage programs, worsening the flying experience on both airlines, getting rid of free meals at mealtimes and special meals on almost all domestic routes in all classes, stripping free premium drinks out of clubs, closing hubs, and single-handedly ruining 2 once proud airlines, this is the first change that all Continental and United flyers can finally get behind. Good riddance Mr. Smisek!