Jeff Smisek just quit as the CEO and President of United Airlines amid a corruption probe by federal investigators. He denies any wrongdoing.

Consider his performance: During his five-year tenure, the company stock is  now down 15%, the merger with Continental has been horrid, labor unions are ignored, and J.D.Powers puts United LAST in customer satisfaction among the big carriers.

I attest to the latter. United was once my carrier of choice — but not any longer as flights have been cut, seats scrunched, prices raised (despite a drastic reduction in jet fuel), and only the highest-priced tickets are rewarded with full mileage credit.

Smisek’s reward:  PLENTY. Because he quit rather than being fired, he walks away with $5 million in cash as well as other financial consideration that could be valued as high as $20 million. And oh yes: while the rest of us suffer in the coach sections, he gets  FREE first class travel for life, health insurance until he’s eligible for Medicare, free airport parking for life and the keys to the company car.  Poor duckie: he will lose his gym membership.

What is wrong with this picture?! It’s all about the ‘Golden Parachute.’

He is not the only CEO to screw a company and get rewarded in the bargain. Remember Robert Nardelli and Home Depot? Only the shareholders and employees were nailed in his over-the-top compensation for bringing that store down.

Maybe it’s time for a shareholder revolt. Perhaps it’s time for an employee revolt or a customer revolt. Come to think of it, United better quickly change their in-flight safety announcement. Smisek’s welcome in the opening video will bring nothing but sneers and derision.

There’s something rotten in the not-so-friendly skies.

About Eileen McDargh

Since founding McDargh Communications & The Resiliency Group Eileen McDargh has helped organizations and individuals transform the life of their business and the business of their life through conversations that matter and connections that count.

Her programs are content rich, interactive, provocative and playful—even downright hilarious. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. She is the author of six books, including Gifts from the Mountain: Simple Truths for Life's Complexities ,a Benjamin Franklin Gold Award winner. A training film based on this book was awarded the Silver Telly, the highest award for commercial productions. Her latest book was written to help everyone who is stretched too thin by competing demands My Get Up & Go Got Up & Went. As a business author and commentator, she’s appeared on network news, on radio programs and in business journals and in major metropolitan newspapers .


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