Both United Airlines and British Airways have something in common. In 2016, both will be helmed by newer Chief Executive Officers (CEO). In today’s airline CEO news, United Airlines’ Oscar Munoz sent a letter to employees providing details on his return while a successor is named for British Airways.
Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack 3 weeks ago (News – October 16, 2015). As Brett J. Hart continues to act as the CEO until Munoz’s return to the helm (News – October 28, 2015), the airline distributed a letter to its employees with more information:
“Dear United team,
Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers you sent to my family and me over the past few weeks. I am excited to tell you that I am on the road to recovery. My time away will be a little longer than I would like, but based upon discussion with my doctors I will be back in the first quarter.
I’m personally grateful to Brett and the entire management team for their leadership and for embracing United’s new direction. I know each one of you is committed to achieving our full potential, continuing to focus on building and delivering our shared purpose of making United not only the best airline to fly, but also the best place to work.
While I have been part of the United family for only a short time, I’ve built many valued and strong relationships so far, and I can’t wait to come back.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, this has been a difficult time for me and my family. Your messages of encouragement have helped profoundly. I look forward to seeing you in 2016 to continue working together to build a great airline.
There is a positive tone to the letter which is consistent to how Munoz has been approaching his new responsibilities at United Airlines. For the time being, the airline continues to make operational improvements (News – November 12, 2015) in a bid to attract more travellers.
For the month of October 2015, United Airlines is reporting that its on-time performance and customer satisfaction scores are on the rise. As a result, eligible employees could be rewarded.
International Airlines Group (IAG) announced that Alex Cruz is set to replace Keith Williams as Chairman and CEO of British Airways in April 2016 when Keith retires after 18 years at the airline.
Cruz is currently chairman and chief executive of Vueling Airlines. He will report to IAG’s Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh.
Walsh commented on Cruz’s appointment : “Under Alex Cruz’s leadership, Vueling has become a dynamic, innovative and cost-effective airline and Alex will bring new experience and insight to British Airways.”
British Airways (BA) is currently in the midst of updating its Boeing 747-400s (News – April 18, 2015), improving catering service by offering enhanced economy meals (News – April 22, 2015) and adding to its lead as the European carrier with the most flights to the US (News – August 26, 2015).
Alex Cruz has been instrumental in expanding Vueling Airlines into a prominent player in the low cost carrier scene in Europe and second biggest in Spain behind Iberia. He also held management positions at Sabre and American Airlines. This gives him deeper perspective of the airline industry from both network and low cost carriers.
Europe has been a major battleground for both network (Air France/KLM, Lufthansa) and low cost carriers (Ryanair, Easyjet). As the domestic and international competitors continue to entrench into its home based in London (e.g. Emirates will be operating 8 Airbus A380-800 service to Dubai (News – August 6, 2015)) and Norwegian operating to 33 domestic/international destinations from Gatwick (source)), it is important for BA to evolve into a more agile airline to fend off competition. It’s parent company also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus which will make fleet purchase and deployment more economical (with economy of scale).
On one service item, Vueling Airlines was the first European airline to include WiFi on boards its aircrafts in 2014 (source). This could set the stage for fast deployment across British Airways (as it continues to conduct tests with vendors).