All change - not really, as United’s rising CEO gets excited about spending more time with employees

9 December, 2019

Once United Airlines’ president Scott Kirby assumes the CEO role at United in May-2020, not much will change with the airline’s strategy, but obviously Mr Kirby will interact with United’s employees on a much deeper level.

United’s current CEO Oscar Munoz, has brought in Mr Kirby and others to execute United’s commercial strategy, opting to leave those details to other executives that have a deeper knowledge about the airline business, including Mr Kirby and chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella, who Mr Kirby recruited from American Airlines.

The strategy adopted by United after Mr Kirby assumed the role of president included building up the airline’s hubs to create more favourable and lucrative connections, a move initially viewed sceptically by Wall Street, but is now paying rewards for United. Its P/E ratio of 8.27 surpasses American’s 7.85 ratio and Delta Air Lines’ slightly higher 7.94.

United in the midst of rolling out its Polaris business class seats having retrofitted 100% of its 777-330ER widebodies with the product, 66% of its 767-300ERs and 63% of its 777-200ERs.

The airline is also rolling out the unique Bombardier CRJ550, a CRJ700 configured with 50 seats that allows it remain within the limits of its pilot scope clause (that caps larger 70-seat jets) and compete more effectively with its rivals from a premium product perspective on routes where those jets will be deployed. The CRJ550 features 10 first class seats, 20 Economy Plus and 20 in the standard economy configuration.

Markets will be closely watching the revenue generation of the CRJ550, but United is garnering kudos from passengers for the aircraft’s hard product.

As Mr Kirby transitions from president to CEO, he’ll no doubt continue the hard work that Mr Munoz has done to restore faith and loyalty among United’s employees. Although Mr Kirby is widely known as revenue whiz, he’s stressing his excitement about spending more time with employees, “and together building the best airline in the history of aviation”.

United is in collective bargaining negotiations with its pilots, and for now, the pilot group is congratulating Mr Kirby on his promotion. There’s no doubt that challenging negations lie ahead, but for now both sides publicly seem intent in engaging in positive discussions.

In 2019, United has been focusing more than ever on its commitment to its customers, looking at every aspect of its business to ensure that the carrier keeps customers' best interests at the heart of its service. In addition to today's news, United recently announced that MileagePlus miles will now never expire, giving members a lifetime to use miles on flights and experiences.