Thursday, May 13

‘We need to de-stress the travel lifestyle’

As United Continental Holdings turns its business around after a host of public relations issues crippled the airline giant’s stock, its CEO is trying to heighten United’s focus on the customer, he told CNBC on Wednesday.

“We need to de-stress the travel lifestyle,” United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz told “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer in an exclusive interview.

“How do we keep you informed? How do we keep you focused and directed when something goes wrong?” he continued. “But, more importantly, before you even leave your house, you know your flight’s on time, you know where you’re headed.”

Admitting that there has been “a whole host of communicative issues” around how United has handled issues like these in the past, Munoz said policies like raising customers’ baggage fees will help the airline operator achieve these customer-oriented goals.

“It’s important to reinvest in the business,” he told Cramer. “I think it’s one of the things about this industry that people, our customers, don’t always understand. All that money that we’re getting back is being piled back into the business.”

Still, United’s leaders are “always mindful” of the rocky history in the airline space, which has, in the past, faced bankruptcies, problems with poor products and services and some safety issues, the CEO said.

“We’re not about that. We pile that money back into the business for the right things,” Munoz said. “We want to make you, as our customer, feel good about flying us. And so our customer-centricity, our customer properties, are something we really want to sort of engage.”

Those properties will come into play over the next year, during which United will roll out a new customer engagement initiative almost every week, the CEO said.

Munoz added that since he became CEO in 2015, his central focus has been on regaining trust among his employees and building the motivation that’s required for the company to move forward.

“Trust is the underpinning of a lot of things that we do and that doesn’t compute, as you know, on spreadsheets. But it’s such an important part and foundation for everything we’ve been able to do,” he told Cramer. “It’s [a] neverending project with keeping them engaged and motivated, but we’re doing a good job.”

Shares of United Continental Holdings ended Wednesday trading up 1.19 percent, at $88.97. In July, the company reported higher-than-expected second-quarter profits and raised its full-year outlook.

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