Fly the Jargon Skies

This week, I received in my inbox an introductory missive from the new President/CEO of United Airlines.

This was not a first-class production. In fact, it should never have been allowed to leave the gate, it is so freighted with boilerplate business-speak baggage.

This is what happens when you try to say all the “right” PR things, and thereby end up saying….nothing.

United jargon

I’ve highlighted Mr. Munoz’ three main points. And they’re absolutely ground-breaking: focus on customers. Teamwork. Innovation. Wow.

Oh, and because we’re an airline, we’ll throw in a bonus mention of safety.

We’re going to work hard, and work together, and listen, and do better. Isn’t that breathtakingly original? No company has ever made a promise like that before. Except every company on the planet. And every politician. Totally believable stuff.

I should launch a site called or that generates this pablum.

This kind of generic biz-speak could have been uttered by a CEO of 1, 385,000 other companies (and it has been). Who doesn’t talk about customer focus? Who isn’t for teamwork (at least he didn’t write: our most important assets are our employees!). Innovation? Everyone from Uber to Ford to Soyndra to the U.S. Postal Service talks about that. Swap out a few words, and this same letter could have been sent by a high-school football coach, a college admissions executive, a recruiter at Arby’s, or one of a thousand bloggers who spew out such platitudes into the ether.

Also – by the way – the letter opens by Mr. Munoz saying he wants to introduce himself to us. He doesn’t actually do that, beyond a first-name signature. He just regurgitates corporate spin. Where’s Oscar??

What would have been far more effective would be a plain-spoken acknowledgement of some of the (well-known) customer service declines that have occurred since the United-Continental merger, and an outline of 3 very tangible United-Airlines-specific steps that Mr. Munoz is going to take that will make a visible, measurable difference in the next 6 months.

I used to fly United/Continental all the time, when I was based out of NJ, and I have nothing against the airline. I hope it succeeds and that Mr. Munoz’ tenure is a productive one. But, please – we don’t need empty words as you spin up the engines on the runway. We want a real flight plan. You can, as the letter states, do better…


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  1. Really good points, Steven. A generic message isn’t appropriate for an airline that’s in big trouble. A totally lame email.

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