Yesterday was a good day, mostly because my friend Andy told me that Jeff Smisek resigned as CEO of United Airlines. As many of you know, I loathe that man. He holds the distinction of being the only executive in corporate America that I actively, physically hate. Early in his United career, he promised customers that many changes were coming and labeled them as “changes I think you’ll like.” While he certainly made many changes, most of them sucked. Whether you were a United employee or a United customer, most agree that Jeff Smisek changed the airline for the worse.
Earlier in the year, Bloomberg reported that United was being investigated for a scandal involving Port Authority chairman David Samson. The rumor was that United would be given favorable options by the Port Authority in exchange for reestablishing a route between Newark, New Jersey and Columbia, South Carolina. Samson has a weekend home in nearby Aiken, South Carolina. While the route was initially cancelled due poor revenue, United reinstated the route…which mysteriously disappeared three days after Samson resigned from the Port Authority. The recent resignations by Jeff Smisek and other executives are believed to be related.
That’s a helluva a story, but I only have superficial knowledge of the situation. What I know firsthand is that I used to love flying United. The service was very good (though still behind top Asian airlines) and the frequent flyer benefits were excellent. Jeff Smisek cut numerous benefits to frequent flyers, made several benefits available to credit card holders, implemented a disgraceful upgrade system, made miles harder to earn, and made mileage awards more difficult to obtain. United’s service has declined, both in terms of operations and politeness. The company has cancelled service to BKK airport in Thailand and will cancel service to JFK in New York — two destinations that I frequent. In the past, I loved flying United. Now it feels like a burden that I pay for. Here’s a nice article that contains a list of the many things Smisek and his regime did wrong.
The good news is that Jeff Smisek is out. The bad news is that the damage he did to the airline could be irreparable. Certainly new United CEO Oscar Munoz has a chance to make things better, but I doubt he can return United to its glory days. Oh well, I’ll just dream of Jeff Smisek getting sentenced to 15-20 years in Federal Pound-Jeff-in-the-Ass Prison (as seen in Office Space).