Shake-up for United’s loyalty, marketing leadership

On Thursday United Airlines announced a few changes to their executive leadership team. Among them was that CEO Jeff Smisek is also going to be the Chairman of the company effective at the end of the year. And there was some mention of shifting around the marketing and loyalty parts of the company, with Jeff Foland taking on a larger role. From the release:

Jeff Foland will oversee the airline’s marketing and loyalty, technology, strategy and customer experience groups, as EVP marketing, technology and strategy.

The level below Foland will also see some significant changes, specifically with the marketing and loyalty operations. Tom O’Toole, formerly President of the MileagePlus program, will be taking over the newly combined Marketing & Loyalty group. Senior Vice President, Marketing Mark Bergsrud and Vice President, Merchandising & Distribution Chris Amenechi have been let go from the company. A United media representative offered the following statement:

Combining marketing & loyalty will allow us to more effectively & efficiently serve our customers.

Quit generic as company statements go, to be sure.

The marketing strategy for United has been all over the map (and that’s not a positive statement regarding their global network) for the past year or so. And the company has had a number of integration issues with OTAs and other distribution channels, issues which have mostly been kept quiet. Combine that with the less than spectacular earnings numbers over the past few quarters and it should not be too much of a surprise that the shake-up happened.

The big questions now are:

  1. Are there more changes coming?
  2. Is this enough?

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. So the part where they fired the former CO folks and replaced them with legacy UA folks doesn’t really factor in to your irrational rants, huh?

    1. I can definitely agree with that, Nicholas B.

      Bergsrud came across as aloof and smug at that event and didn’t seem at all interested in engaging with us. I was quite disappointed.

  1. It will be interesting to see what MP promotions they come up with, including the non-flying promotions.

  2. Guess that “do everything the Continental way” strategy ain’t workin’ out! Couldn’t imagine why

  3. Chris Amenichi is a good guy. I’ve known him for the better part of the last decade in various roles at Continental. Sad to see him leaving the organisation.

  4. Mark and Chris are really smart guys meet them at a Hanger event. Smisek was getting upset with all the issues and had to make a drastic decision. There were two Marketing divisions with-in the company. Mark was overseeing Website, Social Media and Merchandising and other Terrorist group known as MileagePlus was spamming people every minute and it complete chaos. Jeff decided to give the company to MileagePlus because they know how to waste money. Continental out and United MileagePlus takes over.

  5. The Intergration issues are some what gone now, but the Marketing combination led by Legacy United Execs is a complete mess and chaos. Tom O’Toole (a tool) and Jeff Folland (a puppet) have no earthly clue on what there role and direction is. Jeff Folland is in charge of everything and he still thinks that MileagePlus should be Spin off from the company like an idiot! MileagePlus clearly won the battle and war with Continental. In a company where Continental was taking over, those days are gone. Its actually Legacy United now. The only person left is Jeff Smisek, but he will leave so that Jeff Folland can be the next CEO and put this airline into the grave.

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