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Former United Airlines CEO on traveling during COVID-19 pandemic: It's airlines' jobs to keep you safe

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·3 min read
In this article:
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Former United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is sticking with his long-time peers in the airline industry that safety is a top priority during the pandemic, even if that means you have to wear a mask on a plane or employees must be vaccinated.

Shared Munoz on Yahoo Finance Live, "This is an industry where no good deed goes unpunished. There are so many viewpoints that it is hard to sort of measure everything. At United — which is all I can speak of with my successor and all those folks — the concept has always been about human safety. When you develop a principle that is paramount, that's what drives the conversations and decisions around that. So everything that we have done at United is about safety."

The commentary comes after Munoz's successor as CEO of United Airlines — Scott Kirby — was grilled by Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) at a hearing of airline industry leaders last week. United Airlines has decided to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers, which Cruz insisted is causing job loss for those in his home state of Texas.

United competitors Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines have not implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers. Masks wearing remains in place for all air travel, per federal law.

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 30: United Airlines planes sit on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport on November 30, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The United States, and a growing list of other countries, has restricted flights from southern African countries due to the detection of the COVID-19 Omicron variant last week in South Africa. Stocks in the travel and airline industry have fallen in recent days as fears grow over the spread and severity of the variant.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 30: United Airlines planes sit on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport on November 30, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The United States, and a growing list of other countries, has restricted flights from southern African countries due to the detection of the COVID-19 Omicron variant last week in South Africa. Stocks in the travel and airline industry have fallen in recent days as fears grow over the spread and severity of the variant. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"We compete on everything. One thing we should never compete on is the concept of safety. You as a consumer should not be flying one airline because you think it is safer than the other. That is ridiculous. We are all on the same aircraft. I am supportive of the industry, but they did get grilled on many issues. They had a fallout about masks. It was an off-hand comment that nobody really caught on and such. In hindsight ... masks are important. All of those precautions are important in this era of uncertainty," explained Munoz.

While Kirby and his competitors take heat from government officials, Munoz — who retired as United CEO earlier this year — is able to celebrate a key win at Silicon Valley startup Archer with a clear mind. Munoz is a member of the company's board of directors.

Archer successfully performed a hovering operation for its Maker aircraft this past weekend. It marked an important event as the company looks to commercialize a ride-sharing platform for air travel in 2024.

Archer went public via a SPAC in mid-September. United Airlines has committed to buying $1 billion worth of Archer aircraft, and has a $500 million option to buy more.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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