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United Airlines Shuffles Top Leadership and Announces New CEO

The legacy carrier is finishing off the decade and starting a new one with some new names and old taking their rightful spots at the top

December 9, 2019

In a stunning announcement, United Airlines  Chief Executive Officer, Oscar Munoz, said he will be transitioning to the role of Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of United Airlines Holdings, Inc. in May 2020. The announcement was made last week as it was announced that  United’s president, J. Scott Kirby, will succeed Munoz as Chief Executive Officer.

As CEO, Munoz has transformed United’s culture and set new standards of operational and financial performance over his five-year tenure with the airline company. Munoz, 60, started with the airline since 2010 when he oversaw the merging of Continental Airlines, where he had been serving as member of Continental’s board of directors since 2004, with United Airlines. At the time of his appointment as United’s CEO in 2015, Munoz had been serving as a member of the board of directors of United Continental Holdings.

“With United in a stronger position than ever, now is the right time to begin the process of passing the baton to a new leader,” Munoz said. “One of my goals as CEO was to put in place a successful leadership transition for United Airlines. I brought Scott to United three years ago, and I am confident that there is no one in the world better equipped to lead United to even greater heights. It has been the honor of my career to lead the 95,000 dedicated professionals who serve United’s customers every day. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Scott in the months ahead and supporting the company’s ongoing success in my new role.”

Kirby was recruited to United Airlines by Munoz in August 2016, after a three-decade career in the commercial airline business. During that time he held senior leadership roles at America West and US Airways, where he was named president in 2006. Kirby started his career at the Pentagon and in the technology sector and earned bachelor degrees in computer science and operations research from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Master of Science in operations research from George Washington University.

Kirby, a highly-regarded industry leader, has played a pivotal role in enabling United’s cultural transformation and successfully executing the company’s strategic growth plan.

Munoz will serve as Executive Chairman for a one-year term and will continue to work closely with Kirby, the Board and the United team in shaping United’s employee and customer-centric culture. He will also lead the company’s Board and continue to engage on behalf of United with a range of external stakeholders.

“When I joined United as CEO, I laid out ambitious goals to build a new spirit of United by regaining the trust of our employees and customers – and I’m proud of how far we’ve come,” Munoz said. “Along with the successful implementation of the plan our team laid out in January 2018, United’s operational and financial performance isn’t just better – it’s better than ever. By instilling a culture of ‘proof not promise,’ we have transformed United even faster than we expected and there’s an incredible sense of excitement about the future.”

As part of this transition, United’s current Chairman, Jane Garvey, will retire from the Board in May 2020 after more than a decade of exceptional service, including serving as Chairman since May 2018. At the request of the Board, Garvey agreed to remain in her role for a year beyond the Board’s mandatory retirement age.

The company also announced that Ted Philip will become Lead Independent Director following the 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. Philip joined the Board in July 2016 and chairs the Nominating/Governance Committee. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of Hasbro, Inc. and BRP Inc.

All of these announced changes will take effect following the company’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, scheduled for May 20, 2020.