United CEO Oscar Munoz’s Letter to the Airline’s Employees

United CEO Oscar Munoz has gone home from the hospital after a heart transplant.

United has said they expect Munoz to return to work by the beginning of the second quarter. Munoz says he “expects to participate in key meetings” now that he’s left the hospital.

Jeff Smisek, the face of the airline and a symbol of all that had gone wrong with the merger between United and Continental, was forced out in September after an internal corruption investigation.

Munoz, a long-time board member but outsider to the airline industry began his tenure by talking to employees and talking about the need to give them tools to provide a good product and good service to customers.

He was then struck by a heart attack mere weeks into his tenure.

As Munoz recovers, United has lots of work to do. They’ve been making many of the right symbolic gestures, like setting themselves on course to replace awful coffee that customers have complained about for years and to introduce snacks in economy.

But they still need a single contract for flight attendants to complete the United-Continental merger, and the legacy computer reservation from Continental desperately needs replacement. They need to get their catering act together at Chicago O’Hare, too, where the transition from Gate Gourmet to LSG SkyChefs has left plenty of shorter flights without catering besides water.

Here’s the letter that Munoz sent to United’s employees.

    To my United Family –

    Greetings and Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

    My family and I are deeply grateful for your thoughts and prayers. It’s given us strength and lifted our spirits.

    I’m excited to let you know that today I’m headed to my Chicago home following my heart transplant. With the help of the amazing and caring team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, I feel as strong as ever. My doctors have been impressed with my progress and foresee a quick recovery. I feel great, and it won’t be long before we are working side by side again. Until that time, I expect to participate in key meetings and be involved in strategic planning.

    My new heart makes me feel like I’ve been given a new set of wings, and that reinforces my confidence that, with the wings we all share, we can soar in our quest to make United a great airline for our customers and a cherished place to work. I will be relying on this sense of team purpose as I transition back. We have some important decisions ahead of us, and we can move forward with the necessary boldness only if we have a shared trust, confidence and respect.

    I know that a lot of you spent time away from family and friends these past few weeks getting our customers home to their loved ones. Thank you. Your hard work in the face of challenging conditions was exceptional, and our customers noticed. I couldn’t be more proud of what you did and am pleased to share that we received our highest customer satisfaction performance for the holiday period in more than three years! It’s a fantastic achievement.

    As I thought about my return, I gave careful consideration to what greater things we can do together, and that has spurred my recovery. We’ve made a lot of positive changes these past few months thanks to your efforts. Take pride in these accomplishments and our success. Remember, even better days lie ahead if we stay focused on consistently earning our customers’ trust. Keep up the great work, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

    Oscar Munoz

Hopefully the airline and its CEO are on the mend. Get your Oscar Munoz t-shirt!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Amen on getting their catering act together at O’Hare. Was delayed over an hour on an ORD-BWI flight this past Tuesday because the flight didn’t have an adequate number of coffee pots. The pilots and flight attendants were very openly frustrated about the issue, and were quick to point out it was due to the switch to the new catering crew.

    Certainly frustrating. The crew handled it well though.

  2. Sending all the best thoughts to Mr Munoz. He seems like a stand-up guy who was starting to do the right things before the heart attack. Hoping for a speedy recovery and that he’s able to resume full CEO duties soon. I don’t have much evidence to go on but my gut tells me this guy could really help “right the ship” and fix a lot of problems at UA.

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