Chicago – After five years of the United Airlines, Inc (NYSE:UAL) and Continental Airlines merge, the recently appointed CEO Oscar Muñoz has admitted that the airline has failed to live up to the promise of its potential and that the 2010 merger had been poorly managed.

On his first interview since he took office on September 8, Muñoz stated he has been working to turn things around to improve operations and employee relationship along with regaining customers’ trust and satisfaction. Mr. Muñoz said on Thursday that the airline would change under his leadership, reported the New York Times.

Oscar Munoz, then-chief operating officer and executive vice president of CSX Corporation, from left, Vice President Joe Biden, Wilby Whitt, CSX Intermodal Terminals Inc. president, and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx tour the CSX facility in North Baltimore, Ohio. Munoz, the new CEO of United Airlines faces a daunting list of problems he must fix, including late flights and technology that too often suffers embarrassing outages. (Amy E. Voigt/The Blade via AP)

“This integration has been rocky. Period” he said. “We just have to do that public mea culpa… The experience of our customers has not been what we want it to be,” said the 56-year-old Mr. Muñoz.

As a CEO, his main focus has been so far to meet with workers, seeking to win back their trust, whose morale has suffered and who have become increasingly vocal in their complaints about management. The former railroad executive pointed out that the way to improve customer service is to fix employee relations first.

He recalled that as a member of United Continental Holdings Inc. he “could have been more aware of how employers were feeling” referring to the level of discontent unknown until he started talking to some of the airline’s 84,000 employees.

“Our investment, our focus, our adulation is going to be focused on those people. Just letting them know that we do like what they do and we recognize it. And ensuring they get the things they have been lacking for some time” reported The New York Times.

Improving the company’s poor on-time rates, currently falling behind major airlines is one of Muñoz’s focus. Also he has decided to take the first steps towards a more open discussion with the public by launching a new website,, which now invites customers to give a feedback and updates flyers with the latest moves to meet concerns.

 “Reliability has to be the first thing we do […] If we are getting people from point A to point B more reliably, consistently, that takes care of the bulk of the concerns of the people.” said Munoz as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The right foundations

Mr. Muñoz pointed out that many of United’s problems are self-inflicted and have a lot to do with structural barriers in the merge. The flight attendants who worked for United or Continental before the merger did not work under the same contract, which caused the airline to be unable to assign them to the same flights. The CEO is intending to change this, but said that unions had to come up with a common position first.

A future meeting with labor leaders has been scheduled for October 15 by the United chief executive, with the main priority of reaching new labor deals with United’s flight attendants and mechanics who continue to work under separate agreements from the two previous airlines.

Source: Forbes