Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash
United Airlines announced that CEO Oscar Munoz will be stepping down in May after almost five years at the company handing over the reins to the company’s president, Scott Kirby, a veteran of the airlines industry. Munoz will transition to the role of executive chairman of United’s board of directors in May 2020. He became CEO of United in September 2015 after previously serving as president and COO, in addition to other executive roles, for twelve years at railroad operator, CSX Corp. Munoz was also previously a director on United’s board, and before that on the board of Continental Airlines. Shortly after becoming the chief executive of United, Munoz suffered a heart attack and underwent a heart transplant. Kirby was hired by Munoz in 2016 after his unexpected departure from American Airlines where he was president, a position in which he had served since its merger with US Airways in 2013. When Munoz was appointed CEO, United was struggling to deal with problems associated with its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines, and issues with operations and employee relations. Since then, Munoz and Kirby have overseen a turnaround at the airlines with improvements in the company’s operations, growth and performance. The turnaround has not been without missteps, including the 2017 public relations crisis where a 69-year old passenger was dragged off an overbooked plane in Chicago. The incident led to changes in the way United handles overbooked flights and resulted in Munoz not getting the planned additional role of chairman. As part of the leadership transition, Jane Garvey, the current chairwoman of United’s board of directors, will retire from the board in May.