Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

United Airlines is trying to clean up its act.

It's trying to show passengers it cares by persuading its employees to show passengers that they care.

Naturally, not all of them do.

Especially those who feel aggrieved they were on the wrong side of the merger between United and Continental Airlines.

Still, United tries to encourage its employees in various ways.

Why, one veteran United Flight Attendant sent me a picture of a small bag of popcorn they was given to staff by the airline.

On the bag was written:

Just Poppin' By To Say Thanks For Your Hard Work!

Oddly, the Flight Attendant said the gift wasn't universally popular.

Some of the problems at United are avoidable -- and the airline is trying to address them -- some less so.

Why, CEO Oscar Munoz recently admitted to CNBC that bad weather was so annoying that he's desperate to bribe the gods: 

We all wish Mother Nature was on our payroll.

Oh, Oscar, I've been paying her for years. I live in California.

Munoz wants you to know he flies United, too and has personal experience of the annoyance weather can bring.

And that, oh, you should be inspired by it.

You see, one of his recent United flights was diverted by weather from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Which some might consider less of a diversion and more of a purgatorial sentence.

Munoz, though, described it like this: 

People shared food. They brought out bags of taffy. It was a wonderful event.

I wonder how many people on that flight were Midwesterners.

It's odd how often people only get together in adversity.

I made some interesting acquaintances, for example, when a Southwest Airlines flight left LAX without several passengers -- including me -- and the gate agents had all the helpfulness and charm of a dyspeptic diplodocus.

Munoz, on the other hand, says he stood up from his fancy seat and spoke to the passengers -- even the ones in the back.

I wonder if he actually said: "Isn't this a wonderful event? We can all get to know each other."

Yet another sentence he offered CNBC reveals one of the cores of the airline business that many passengers still feel is often unanswered: 

You can make difficult issues easier.

The part left hanging in the air, of course, is that you have to want to.

Too often, airline passengers don't feel airlines want to. Too often, they encounter employees who are either resigned, angry or merely dismissive.

It may well be that, if you have the airline's CEO on your flight, a diversion can turn into a wonderful event. 

Well, perhaps a slightly less painful event. 

More often, though, passengers are, in moments of delay or diversion, left on planes for hours without food and water, treated to a painful lack of communication and then told there was nothing the airline could have done and there'll be no compensation.

The airline business isn't easy. For passengers, that is. Especially when airlines seem more focused on numbers than passengers.

On Munoz's flight, United may have made a few friends.

The trouble with airlines, though, is that wonderful events are a little too rare.

Published on: Sep 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.