An Open Letter to Oscar Muñoz, CEO, United Airlines
- Kamran Mofid
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Dear Mr. Muñoz,
I am sure you will agree with me that, it must be very sad for you, personally, and disastrous for United Airlines, after the inhumane fiasco of the other day, when the poor and helpless Dr. Dao was forcefully and violently dragged and removed from a United Airlines plane in Chicago. This ugly and unnecessary incident has sparked international outrage and turned into a public relations nightmare for the airline which you lead. It is said that Dr. Dao suffered a concussion and broken nose and lost two front teeth, and would need reconstructive surgery.
What had he done for such a horrible beating up? Was he guilty of anything? No. He was not at fault. He was not guilty. I hope United Airlines was not making an example of him, so that next time around, nobody will dare to say no to give up their seats when you are overbooked!
The fault lies with the neo-liberal agenda and today’s corporate values and culture: Profit maximisation, cost minimisation, the highest returns to the share holders, huge bonuses for the CEOs and other big wigs, and above all, the destructive, all-out-drive to achieve targets (set by a bunch of heartless, money-oriented individuals) at any cost.
This, as the distinguished journalist and author, Simon Jenkins, writing in the guardian has candidly noted “Bound by rules to keep costs low big companies can only deliver cheap, impersonal and poor services.”
By treating Dr. Dao-“69-year-old Asian man”- the way we all have now seen on our television screens all over the world, the United Airlines that had declared it self guardian of “the friendly skies” has now become known as the #1 operator of unfriendly skies.
Dear Mr. Muñoz,
I know, for sure that, you know this already. But, please allow me to remind you, once again that:
“The essence of a service industry is the point of contact with the customer. From a yoga class or therapist to a decorator, a restaurant or a tour operator, we expect value to lie in the personal nature of the delivery. It lies not in product quality but in experience quality – in courtesy, humanity and kindness. We do not expect a difference between a first- and a second-class experience, between caring and not caring.”
Dear Mr. Muñoz,
Now please allow me to share some heart-felt advice with you. You can, if you so wish, learn from this sad and costly episode and turn it around for good, by changing your corporate culture and values. Believe me, it is true, the business can do well by doing good, by being good.
Let me show you the path: For me, all roads lead back to E. F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” or “economics as if people matter”.
“In the name of profit and technological progress, Schumacher argued, modern economic policies had created rampant inefficiency, environmental degradation and dehumanising labour conditions. "Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful," he wrote.
The remedy he proposed - a holistic approach to human society, which stressed small scale, localised solutions - flew in the face of economic orthodoxies of the time: "I have no doubt that it is possible to give a new direction to technological development, a direction that shall lead it back to the real needs of man, and that also means: to the actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful."
Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful is an appeal to the deep instinctive understanding of the common good that all people share. It is an appeal to our essential humanity. It deals with some of the most pressing concerns of people the world over, concerns which every generation must consider and answer. It is written in the hope of inspiring idealism and the desire to give the practical help the world so greatly needs. The book encourages us to reflect on and to understand things we all seem to have forgotten: What is Education? What is Knowledge? What is Wisdom? What is the source of true happiness and well-being? What is the good life? What is the purpose of economic life? What does it mean to be a human being living on a spaceship with finite resources? What paths can be recommended to shift the current destructive global political-economic order from one of unrestrained economic growth, profit maximisation and cost minimisation, to one that embraces material wealth creation, yet also preserves and enhances social and ecological well-being and increases human happiness and contentment?
I discovered Schumacher and “Small is Beautiful” in 1979. To be precise: on August 11, 1979. I had written the date I purchased the book on the first page. At that time I was an undergraduate studying economics at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.” Continue to read
Dear Mr. Muñoz,
I do hope that this letter will reach you.
I don’t know, but I have a gut-feeling that you are emotionally affected by what happened the other day and you are the man who will lead the path to a change from the current corporate culture and values, to business and corporations as if people matter.
I wish you good luck and good health.