Remove United Airlines CEO

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Petition to United Airlines Shareholders, Board Directors, and all other stakeholders to remove CEO Oscar Munoz.

On Sunday April 9, 2017, a paying passenger, Dr. David Dao, was violently removed from his seat in an overbooked United Airlines flight after he refused to take a later flight. Videos of the incident showed the passenger screaming as he was grabbed and pulled from his seat and then dragged on the plane floor by men in police uniforms. The passenger was seen dripping in blood in the head and the face. Whether the airline claims rights to de-board involuntary passengers, which is debatable, this physical assault in a crowded cabin was excessive and barbaric.

While there are many questions that need to be investigated, with regards to United Airlines, the incident falls to CEO Oscar Munoz. First, it was the result of poor operation procedures by the airline. If a passenger must give up his seat he’d better be told at the gate, not after he has boarded and seated. More importantly, there are many better alternatives used in the industry. This operation failure at the very least reflected incompetence in operation management, which is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO.

Second and more seriously, this incident revealed the horrific service culture in the company, which is also ultimately the responsibility of the CEO. Whether the airline has contractual rights to re-assign seats, it was a colossal failure of company culture to resort to police intervention to solve its own booking problem, to mention nothing of customer satisfaction and social responsibility. This CEO has failed his company miserably.

But the most serious part came in the CEO’s statements. After videos of the incident went viral, in his first statement CEO Munoz apologized only for "having to re-accommodate these customers", callously dismissing the violence and the trauma inflicted on the removed passenger and the distress felt by other passengers who witnessed the act of violence. He emphatically defended his employees, but really he was defending himself, as employees followed company procedures but the CEO is the one responsible for instituting company procedures. In his second statement, he described the passenger as "disruptive and belligerent", using blames to justify the assault and further entrench himself. Only after company stocks stumbled did he apologize for the forcible removal of the passenger. Now he bowed to the stock market. By dismissing and justifying violence to the passenger, this CEO not only blew the apology but he also displayed a disturbing attitude of disrespect, which is probably instituted throughout his company. This attitude is un-befitting of leadership of a major public organization.

It is clear that CEO Oscar Munoz’s leadership is inadequate for running a responsible airline. He lacks competence in operation management, which puts airline employees and customers in tense situations.  His service philosophy is not right for customer satisfaction and social responsibility in an industry that needs both. Most importantly, he does not have leadership ability to address tough situations right, and to do things right.

An airline needs to be an icon of social decency and social responsibility because this is a business that impacts millions of people every day. Violation to the body and dignity of a passenger, regardless of who he happens to be, revealed that United Airlines is the opposite icon. For United Airlines to do well by all stakeholders going forward, Board Directors should address company problems at their roots, starting with replacing CEO Oscar Munoz so others can reform this public company’s operation and culture.

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