The Trump administration’s policies toward immigration stand as an unwelcome complication for United Airlines, the company’s chief executive Oscar Munoz said.
Munoz made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with Business Insider last week. He spoke about the plan to build a wall on the United States’ southern border as well as the executive order temporarily banning immigrants from certain majority-Muslim countries.
Munoz also shared his views on the challenges that the United States will face in the coming years.
(This is part of a much larger conversation Munoz — who has been at United since September 2015 — had with the Business Insider at United’s Global Leadership Conference in Chicago. So keep an eye out for much more to come.)
Trump’s immigration order
Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has moved swiftly on a laundry list of campaign promises through a wave of executive orders. Perhaps most controversial among them is a 90-day moratorium on immigrants, including refugees, from seven countries.
“It was so sudden that you have people in the air, you have people out of the country, you have people connected back here that are just stranded. So how do you tell somebody who lives in America…that they can’t come back,” Munoz said.
“And so nobody thought through those things. I just wished and hoped that we could do it a little more thoughtfully.”
Munoz lamented the fact that his employees and others in the travel industry have been forced to deal with the day-to-day chaos created by the executive order. From his perspective, it’s an order whose efficacy is debatable.
“The retort is that…well you are going to let the bad guys in….,” Munoz said. “Well there’s a lot of facts that support that, of all the terrorist activities in this country since 9/11, most have been caused by American citizens radicalized by policies implemented by [past] administrations.”
On the business front, Munoz, said he believes the uncertainty surrounding the Administration’s somewhat erratic behaviour has had a direct effect on the airline in the form of reduced bookings to certain destinations.
“Well, there’s no question that the uncertainty of what this administration says versus what they actually do… can be clearly seen,” the airline boss told us. “People are not scared — but maybe that is the word — to fly because they don’t know what’s going to happen when they (try to) come back.”
“Uncertainty always creates doubt, and doubt creates fear. And if you do that, yes, people are just going to stay home,” Munoz added.
Trump’s Mexican Wall
As the most prominent Mexican-American CEO in the US, Munoz is fundamentally opposed to the wall Mr. Trump has threatened to build along the Mexican border.
“Clearly, on a visceral human front, I oppose any wall, anywhere, between any people. Period,” he said.
However, on a practical level, Munoz questions whether a wall would actually make for a safer border.
“And then the efficacy and efficiency of something like that sounds good, but having travelled around there — the terrain — I don’t know how you are actually going to build any kind of barrier that makes sense across such an incredible length. I don’t know how that’s going to help,” Munoz told us.
In addition, the United CEO praised the border patrol for their hard work and remarked that their efforts to secure our nation’s borders have been relatively successful as “people sneaking across” to the US is but a small portion of the country’s immigration issues.
At the end of the day, Munoz believes that the symbolism of Trump’s border wall is far more problematic for the US than anything else associated with the proposal.
“[When] we start building walls or even creating the concept of walls, it starts making it ok for you to build personal walls at work or with your neighbours,” Munoz said. “I think that’s damning and damaging to the country we all know is great because of that diversity and not despite of it.”
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