United Acting CEO Now Working On Investors
Buoyed by a 58 percent year-over-year increase in third-quarter profit – despite falling just short of analysts’ expectations – and a forecast calling for a strong fourth quarter, United Airlines acting CEO Brett Hart moved to calm any investor fears
“Like Oscar, I believe United has the people, the network and the assets to achieve the same or greater margins as our peers,” Hart said on a conference call. “I, with our entire management team, will continue to take steps necessary to get us there.”
Hart took over last week when CEO Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack barely seven weeks into his tenure. Munoz took over for ousted CEO Jeff Smisek in September.
"At its core, this is a team that has been here through the first quarter, which resulted in record results; the second quarter, which resulted in record results; and the third quarter which resulted in record results," Hart said.
Hart added he recognizes the same kind of problems in the company that Munoz saw – on-time performance, customer satisfaction and labor issues – and will continue to address them.
To that end, United is working on customer satisfaction issues by experimenting with new boarding procedures and new beverages on board.
Hart also dismissed one analyst’s question regarding a previous statement made by Munoz that “United had lost its employees” due to a disconnect with management. He urged the analyst to not try and read between the lines.
“First you have to put it in context. What Oscar was doing was, in his seven weeks with the company, his commitment first and foremost was to get out into the operations. To get down into the break rooms, to get out onto the ramp, to talk to the employees and the focus very specifically was on what they would like to see changed,” Hart said. “And he heard it at every location that he went to. It is very healthy for us to receive that feedback. Oscar had a level of urgency with respect to addressing and getting our employees the tools they need to provide specific customer service, which at the end of the day is clearly our objective. … I wouldn’t misinterpret Oscar’s desire to create urgency in that area, which is appropriate, with an (overblown) perspective on a disconnect between our frontline employees and management. So we are very focused on it and we expect to continue to move forward with the momentum that Oscar brought in that area.”
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