Milwaukee Biz Blog: Industry insider refused to fly on United Airlines

"Unhappy people make mistakes"

A couple of years ago, Ann Rhoades spoke to one of my TEC groups. Her presentation discussed customer-centric cultures and included a process for developing corporate culture based on values. Ann is president of the consulting firm PeopleInk.

United Airlines shutterstock_213471262Prior to her consulting gig, Ann was an executive in the airline industry. She worked directly with CEO Herb Kelleher during the early days at Southwest Airlines as the company’s chief people officer. She was at Southwest when they were growing from 3 planes to over 700 today. During her tenure, Southwest was earning its ranking of #1 by the DOT for the lowest number of customer complaints in the airline industry. She went on to join startup JetBlue Airways as executive vice president.

Ann got into Milwaukee okay for her TEC presentation that day. She was having trouble, however, booking a flight out. Her choice of airlines was somewhat limited. United Airlines was the only airline that had direct service to her next destination.

Ann refused to fly United.

This industry insider said she would not fly United because “Unhappy people make mistakes.”

With the debacle at O’Hare costing United $250 million in market cap and counting, it appears Ms. Rhoades was on to something.

Dennis Ellmaurer is president of Milwaukee-based Central File Inc. Prior to accepting the assignment at Central File, Dennis was a management consultant working primarily as a TEC chair in southeastern Wisconsin, leading three CEO mastermind groups. For more information, contact him at (414) 202-0190 or

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