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Airlines & Airports / CBS News

United CEO Speaks out on Mergers, Fees & the Dreamliner

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“The airline industry has lost money since the Wright Brothers,” noted Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines. But things just might be turning around. United, now the world’s largest airline, has begun to make money consistently and can now invest in products and services that the customers want.

Smisek joined Peter to speak candidly about all the hot topics in the airline industry today.

  • On mergers, “Mergers have helped us match capacity to demand, which has helped [United] become profitable”
  • On customer service, “We’ve improved service. We’ve trained more that 80 percent of our front-line co-workers in customer service….We’re investing in our people and new technology for them to use to serve our customers better.”
  • On rising airfares, “In the old days, we charged less for every seat than it cost us….Now we’re able to make a very small profit [a penny/penny and a half…on a dollar] but that’s enough to help us invest back in the business.”
  • On fees, “What you’re paying for is things that used to be embedded in a single price. We used to price things all together┬á and you didn’t give people choice so you were charged for things you didn’t use. Customers can now pick and pay for the things they value.”
  • On the Dreamliner problems, “We absolutely believe in the Dreamliner. It’s a terrific airplane and revolutionary technology….The dispatch reliability of that airplane today is slightly below where the 777 was when it was introduced…All new airplanes have issues.”

Watch Peter’s latest CBS This Morning report to hear his full conversation with Jeff Smisek.

Don’t miss Peter’s last report on the 15-day process United Airlines follows to install Wi-Fi on its 747.