December 23, 2018

The story of United Airlines CEO giving up his 1st class seat to elderly woman still melts hearts

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United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz, moved hearts with an incredible act of kindness aboard one of the company’s flights last November. People had different opinions about the move, but the woman who witnessed all said she was pleasantly surprised by the CEO’s kind heart.

Rebecca Kuchar Krutz was about to board a flight from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport when she noticed a crowd of people and United Airline’s staff taking pictures of a man and trying to talk to him.


However, Krutz, who described herself as a loyal Delta Airlines customer, didn’t know who the man was. She asked a man sitting next to her, who explained it was Munoz, the CEO of the company since 2015.

Krutz recalled how Munoz then emerged from the crowd to greet a senior woman, who was probably in her late 80s or 90s. “She didn’t appear to be in great health and had a bit of a hard time with her speech,” she wrote on a Facebook post.

As the passengers were taking their seats, Krutz noticed that the lady took the one right in front of her in first class, and later, she saw Munoz walking pass first class, not without stopping to talk to the lady again, before going to take a seat in the economy section.


Without thinking much of it, Krutz took out her phone and snapped a few pictures of the exchange.


It was only after the flight landed that Krutz overheard the senior talking to the man next to her. She explained that it was her first time flying in years and she was nervous about it, so she couldn’t be more grateful to Oscar for offering her his seat.

“Looking back on those photos now, knowing that he'd given her his seat, they take on a completely different meaning," she told SF Gate. "You can clearly see the kindness and sincerity in his face as he speaks to her while walking back to his seat."


Kurtz stated in her Facebook post that, after witnessing Oscar’s act of kindness, she might as well change lanes from Delta to United.

“I may very well be a lifelong United customer after witnessing that act of selflessness by a man who likely has his own private plane, and yet was humble enough to give up his seat to an elderly lady he’d never met before because he thought she’d be more comfortable there.”


While many people on social media praised Munos for his actions, others titled it as a PR move to help enhance the airline’s reputation, which was tarnished after an incident in 2017 when a passenger was dragged off a plane.


David Dao, an Asian American pulmonologist, was aboard a flight from Chicago to Louisville when he was forcefully removed from the plane by Aviation Security Officers. The incident started when United staff asked volunteer passengers to leave the flight to make room to four employees that needed to be at the destination in the morning.


After people refused to give up their seats, staff selected four passengers to be removed from the flight. The other three complied, but Dao said he had to be at the hospital and refused to leave. Security officers then used force, removing the doctor from his seat and bumping his head against the arms rest in the process.

Other passengers watched in horror as the man was dragged seemingly unconscious through the hallway of the plane.

Dao suffered several injuries including a broken nose, loss of two front teeth, sinus injuries and a concussion.

Munoz was heavily criticized for defending the crew’s actions and falsely accusing Dao of being “disruptive and belligerent” in an e-mail sent to employees after the incident. Later, he apologized publicly and stated that Dao was not guilty of the incident, promising to make changes in the airline’s policies.

United and Dao reached a confidential settlement a few weeks later.