Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Rivals React to United CEO Storm with Mix of Support, Opportunism

Other airline-industry leaders have come to Munoz's aid, though he's been offered a few words of advice.

One CEO’s crisis-management nightmare is another CEO’s opportunity.

So far, though, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s colleagues in the airline industry haven’t stuck the boot in. They have, however, offered some words of advice—and one airline has even released a cheeky ad to capitalize on the immense amount of publicity created by the debacle.

Munoz yesterday released another, much more sincere apology to the paying customer who was violently dragged from an over-booked plane.

“Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” Munoz said. “I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.”


At last, Munoz had followed the crisis-management playbook: he accepted there was a problem, took full responsibility and pledged to do what he could to fix the problem. But given it came two days after the incident, and followed two poorly-received releases that hurt United share price, it was not only a bit late but also highly self-serving.

Bob Crandall, a former CEO of American Airlines, said he would have issued the definitive apology immediately. “That’s what Oscar just did and I think he did exactly the right thing,” Crandall told CNBC, while adding: “That’s what he should have said yesterday. He knows that now.”

A former CEO of United Continental, Gordon Bethune, predictably took Munoz’s side, describing the passenger’s refusal to leave the plane as “immature” and noting that airlines had a right to force people off planes.

As previously reported in Chief Executive, companies are wading into dangerous territory if they explicitly criticize a competitors’ products or services—a move that can make them appear negative and nasty. And the airline industry is a tough business, where another big crisis could be just around the corner.

Emirates couldn’t resist, releasing an ad that played on United’s “flying the friendly skies” motto. It can be viewed here.

Emirates made sure to note that Munoz had publicly criticized Middle Eastern airlines in the past. So in this instance, it appears that what went around, has come around.

You might also like:
6 Key Traits of an Ethical Leader
3 Tips for Creating a Culture of Ethics
How to Survive an Ethics Crisis


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.