MIAMI — United Continental Holdings Chief Executive Jeff Smisek and two Senior Executives were forced to quit with immediate effect, amidst a federal investigation probing the link of the airline to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ), operators of Newark Liberty International Airport.

We’ve announced leadership changes. For details please visit the United Hub.

— United (@united) September 8, 2015

According to a regulatory filing submitted last February, “The Company (United Continental Holdings) and certain of its executive officers and employees have received federal grand jury subpoenas requesting records and testimony related to certain individuals formerly associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and related operations of the Company and the Company is conducting an internal investigation in response.”


Smisek will receive a separation payment in the amount of $4,875,000, tax benefits and flight benefits, set forth in a Separation Agreement filed today. The agreement also stated that the former United CEO agreed to cooperate in the defense, prosecution or conduct of any claims or investigations related to events or occurrences under his administration.

Two other senior United officials, the executive vice president of communications and government affairs and the senior vice president of corporate and government affairs of the Chicago-based carrier have stepped down as well.

In a press statement, United announced Oscar Munoz as president and chief executive officer. The new CEO will also continue to serve on the board of directors of the airline.

“It is truly a privilege to serve as United’s CEO” Munoz says. “United has an incredible opportunity for improving an experience that is essential to the vitality of global business and to the personal lives of millions of people, for innovation, and for earnings growth.”

Prior to joining United Airlines, Munoz served as president and chief operating officer of transportation company CSX Corporation. He has served on the board of directors for United Continental Holdings, Inc. since 2010 and served on the board of directors of Continental Airlines, Inc. since 2004. United Airlines board appointed Henry L. Meyer III, lead independent director, to serve as non-executive chairman of the board of directors.

In a letter sent to United employees, Munoz assured that he will dedicate himself “to make our airline flyer-friendly,” and highlighted “In the telecommunications, consumer and railway businesses, there are very real consequences if you don’t meet the consumer’s needs and desires. (…) In the airline business, this is especially critical.”

Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of trade association Airlines for America (A4A) has also announced that Doug Parker, American Airlines CEO has become the chairman of the A4A board of directors, position held by Smisek in representation of United Airlines.

“We thank Jeff for his years of service to the industry and its trade association and appreciate his insight and leadership as chairman of the A4A board,” Calio said in a statement. “We look forward to having Oscar Munoz join our board. He has considerable transportation experience and will be a great addition.”