As reported by Live and Let’s Fly, there’s a new CEO of the United MileagePlus loyalty program, and this could have some significant implications.
Richard Nunn appointed United MileagePlus CEO
United Airlines has revealed internally that Richard Nunn has been appointed CEO of MileagePlus. Interestingly this is a completely new role at the airline. Luc Bondar continues to be the Vice President of Loyalty and President of MileagePlus, but he’ll now be reporting to Nunn, so I guess he’s no longer number one at MileagePlus.
Nunn has an interesting background — he has no experience in the airline industry or loyalty industry, but rather has experience in “advertising technology, digital media and data expertise, building and scaling businesses globally, and leading media technology groups spanning the world.”
He most recently worked at Comcast for nearly five years, where “he built and led the Advertising Platform, a data enabled audience technology which unified and powered their multi-billion-dollar advertising businesses.”
Here’s how Andrew Nocella, United’s EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, describes Nunn’s new role:
“Richard’s digital expertise makes him the ideal leader to accelerate the growth of MileagePlus as the team pursues innovative opportunities to make the program even better for our customers. I’m excited to see how improving our customers’ experience and engagement with United and our partners will unlock brand new business opportunities.”
As mentioned above, this is a newly established role, and Luc Bondar continues to serve as VP of Loyalty and President of MileagePlus. Here’s how Nocella describes Bondar’s continued role:
“Luc’s leadership has been instrumental in so many innovations at MileagePlus over the last five years. He has built the program’s public profile, proven its value to investors, and delivered record-breaking growth, member engagement, program performance and commercial results year over year, all while building closer, stronger and more valuable relationships with our many partners. The unbeatable combination of Richard and Luc in these leadership roles will power MileagePlus to new heights as the best and most valuable loyalty program and business in the world.”
My take on United MileagePlus leadership changes
Prior to this appointment, I had never heard of Nunn before, so I’m not trying to criticize him here, and will reserve final judgment until we see what happens under his leadership. However, there are a couple of interesting things about this development.
For context, it’s important to remember that frequent flyer programs are cash cows for US airlines. These are often the most profitable parts of their businesses, and all of the major US airlines are (understandably) doing everything they can to maximize revenue with that.
With that in mind, the first interesting thing here is how MileagePlus now has both a CEO and President. That’s not unusual, except for the fact that the person who has led MileagePlus for the past five years isn’t going anywhere, but is now reporting to someone else in the same department. Is there any way not to view that as a demotion?
The second interesting thing is who United chose to lead MileagePlus. In general I’m a fan of bringing in some fresh blood, as some (AA)irlines have a history of only promoting from within, and I find that minimizes innovation and creativity. Of course you should reward loyal employees, but fresh perspectives should also be encouraged.
While I like the idea of bringing in someone from outside, I find it very odd that the airline chose someone who has no experience with airlines and no experience with loyalty programs. Furthermore, Comcast isn’t exactly a company known for stellar customer service and customer experience (unless something has recently changed).
Nunn’s appointment was obviously pretty deliberate. He was chosen for his “digital expertise,” which United hopes will allow the airline to “accelerate the growth of MileagePlus” as the airline “pursues innovative opportunities.” To state the obvious, generally accelerating growth and pursuing innovative opportunities doesn’t result in customer friendly changes, at least in the airline loyalty industry.
United Airlines has created the role of MileagePlus CEO, and has appointed a former Comcast executive to the position. He has expertise in digital advertising, though no experience with airlines or loyalty programs. The President of MileagePlus (who previously ran the program) will now report to him. United is promising that this will accelerate the growth of MileagePlus, and that the airline will pursue innovative opportunities.
This should be an interesting one to watch…
What do you make of these leadership changes at MileagePlus?
Maybe Bondar went for the role and didn’t get it?! Doesn’t diminish him or his role at all as a very well respected President of MP since the CEO is a new role which has been created to do other stuff. Nunn is a media and ad tech man with global experience who happened to train as an accountant before he embarked on his career. His role at Comcast was not in customer services or...
Maybe Bondar went for the role and didn’t get it?! Doesn’t diminish him or his role at all as a very well respected President of MP since the CEO is a new role which has been created to do other stuff. Nunn is a media and ad tech man with global experience who happened to train as an accountant before he embarked on his career. His role at Comcast was not in customer services or anything to do with Xfinity. Getting facts straight ahead of judgement is usually a good way to go. Let’s see how he goes….
He worked at Comcast. Enough said!
I've observed the airline industry pretty closely since 1970 and even worked for one during the 80's & 90's. I've seen this act before and it usually isn't very pretty. Another example is Boeing now. Too many senior mgrs. who came from G. E. via Mc Donnel. I know longer think of Boeing as a great company any more, and I loved driving their equipment. The decision making process is atrocious and has been for sometime.
Customer sat became so low at Comcast they were forced to rebrand their product to Xfinity. It sounds like Nunn grew surveillance advertising revenue, and will likely lead the charge to do the same at United. Airlines are just as bad as hotel groups when you examine the breadth of surveillance advert & data mining domains embedded in their websites & apps. United will also want to see an advert ROI for the tv screens they’re installing in the fleet.
Oh Great, what a resume'. I was Incharge of advertising at Comchit. Comshit ranks as one of the worst companies for customer service in the USA/World.
They really need to hire a person that actually flys. But that'll never happen...because that would actually make sense.
I hope this new MP appointment is not just a case of puting a better shade of lipstick on this pig.
Hiring from Comcast will lead to a sh** show. Comcast has no customer satisfaction, if customers can run away from them, of course they would so I can only see it going downhill from here.
This is dumb but at least they didn't bring in an accountant to run the loyalty program.
Worst customer experience ever from United Airlines. Never will I fly this airline.
If only I could redeem plus points. Great to have over 700 points however I am not able to redeem them for anything
Here is how Comcast described Richard Nunn when he worked for them:
It certainly does sound like United hired him to push digital ads via MileagePlus.
Since everything in this world is just boiling down to advertising, he was probably brought in to help leverage data from MileagePlus members(travel, purchases, etc) to sell to advertisers.
Agreed. If you have a MileagePlus account, now would be a good time to confirm that you are opted out of third party marketing (My United - Settings - Marketing Communications).
It’s not what you know it’s who you know
One guy "delivered record-breaking growth, member engagement, program performance and commercial results year over year, all while building closer, stronger and more valuable relationships with our many partners."
Other guy "he built and led the Advertising Platform, a data enabled audience technology which unified and powered their multi-billion-dollar advertising businesses."
So which one would you put in charge?
Something is wrong organizationally and corporate culturally when they do not promote the insider (who has worked hard and been successful) and pass over him by bringing in an outsider. Why work hard, succeed, with no chance for promotion? Just watch, Luc and others on his team will likely be gone in the near future.
People seem to be forgetting that loyalty programs or advertising are all under marketing domain.
The question is, will he make MP more tech innovated (customer focus), or turn MP in to a marketing arm (profit focus).
It sounds like this guy’s area of expertise is pushing ad content to subscribers. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to more of that.
A couple things to note. First and foremost, we live in the time of the professional CEO class. Not people highly experienced in an industry but born to wealth and connections and Ivy League educated. Just look at our current Transportation Secretary. Second, the profit of airlines at least in the US is no longer flying but partner, particularly credit card, income. Loyalty programs are now about driving to retail partner not flying.
Those are all cute opinions sprinkled with non sequiturs.
Let us know when you find some facts and data.
Let's be honest, a change in any airline loyalty programs has always been for the worse for the customer. This sounds like screwing you over and make you feeling happy about it.
As long as they have experience dominating the working class, that's all that matters!
I’m a United million mile plus customer, and have Global Services twice and regularly a 1K. I recently flew my last flight with United due to poor customer service, too many credit card premium flyers, and a lack of loyalty towards their loyal customers. So they did need a change, but this change is not convincing me to stick around.
It won’t be long and the value for miles will be nil. Perhaps more people will have to pay for their trips or (ghast) sit in the back of the plane! Oh the sky is falling chicken little! There will be mild protest, but nothing much else.
So how long before mileageplus is as bad as skymiles?
Working at Comcast should have disqualified him.
Comcast in my opinion as stated has the worst customer service.
maybe all this is about is revenue generation and not customer service or loyalty
No suprise- seems like almost anyone brought into anytime of supervisory or management positions have no airline (or very minimal) experience. This is how the CEO concocts the " best airline in the world" - smh
My one and only thought reading this news