MIAMI — Chicago-based United Airlines said that its CEO Oscar Munoz underwent a heart transplant today and is in recovery. In a press statement the airline informed:

“A transplant was considered the preferred treatment and was not the result of a setback in his recovery. The United team wishes Oscar well during his recovery, and expects him to return to United at the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter.”

Dr. Duc Pham, MD, Director of the Northwestern Medicine Heart Transplant Program, commented “The surgical team was quite pleased with how the procedure went.  The patient’s early course has been excellent, and the transplanted heart is functioning very well.  We are very optimistic about his prospects for a complete recovery.”

“Given Mr. Munoz’s excellent physical condition and the rapid pace of his recovery prior to the transplant, we expect a quick recovery and a return to his duties as CEO,” said Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery for Northwestern Medicine.

Oscar Munoz with Dr. Duc Pham, MD (right) and Dr. Patrick M. McCarthy, MD (left). (Credits: United Airlines)
Oscar Munoz with Dr. Duc Pham, MD (right) and Dr. Patrick M. McCarthy, MD (left). (Credits: United Airlines)

Munoz, 57 took over the CEO position last September after former CEO Jeff Smisek stepped down due to a federal corruption probe. During his brief tenure, Munoz visited United Airlines hubs and met with employees, besides pledging for changes in the direction for the airline, plagued with operational and financial shortcomings since its merger with Continental Airlines in 2012. On October 15,

Brett Hart, United Airlines interim CEO. (Credits: United Airlines)
Brett Hart, United Airlines interim CEO. (Credits: United Airlines)

Shortly after Munoz suffered a heart attack on October 15,  the carrier’s board of directors appointed Brett Hart as acting CEO. Hart moved into that role from the general counsel position at the airline and has wasted no time following through on initiatives consistent with Munoz’s push to improve the airline’s standing in operations, labor relations, and customer service.

“I want to assure all of our customers, employees and partners that as Oscar completes his recovery, we remain focused on leading the company forward and implementing Oscar’s strategic vision,” said acting CEO, Hart.

During his leave, Munoz interrupted his medical leave to visit with his family, the employees of the airline at the airline’s operations center during Thanksgiving, and since early December, he had been gradually resuming company-related activities in collaboration with Hart, visiting with employees, and participating in meetings at the company’s headquarters.

On Jan. 7, United confirmed that Munoz is expected to return to work late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, later than had been forecast before, and that Brian Hart, the current acting CEO of the airline, will remain in the position until Munoz’s return.