MIAMI — United Airlines announced yesterday that its CEO, Oscar Munoz, would be assuming his role full-time on March 14, after he was put on medical leave for a heart attack.
“The Board is confident in the strength and potential of United’s business – and very pleased that Oscar will be returning to the roles of President and Chief Executive Officer on a full-time basis,” said Henry L. Meyer III, Non-Executive Chairman of United’s Board of Directors in a statement.
Munoz was appointed CEO last September, after his predecessor, Jeff Smisek, was ousted amid a Federal investigation probing the link of the Chicago-based carrier to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ), operators of Newark Liberty International Airport.
A few weeks after his appointment, Munoz suffered a heart attack, and received a heart transplant while on leave. Since then, general counsel and vicepresident Brett Hart served as acting CEO. 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.
“We expect him to continue leading the company’s improving operational and financial performance, driving increased shareholder value, and innovating and elevating United’s customer and employee experience.” Meyer III said.
“Since September when I became CEO, our team has been focused on our employees, improving the operation and the customer experience, and the results are starting to show,” he said. “In fact, over the past several months United has emerged as a top performer in on-time arrivals and completion factor among our largest industry peers.” Oscar Munoz said.
Under Munoz, United has embarked on a mission to restore its reputation for poor customer service and on-time performance, besides expanding the presence of the carrier in Asia and launching a new domestic first class product. Also, the airline has brought back complimentary snacks and premium coffee aboard.
“Our progress isn’t just limited to the operation. Financially, we have been performing well. United’s 2015 earnings were one of the best in the Company’s history, and we made significant progress shrinking the margin gap with our closest competitors, strengthening our balance sheet, and returning significant cash to shareholders. United spent $1.2 billion repurchasing shares in 2015 and plans to spend $1.5 billion on share repurchases in the first quarter of 2016. We have a lot of positive momentum, but this is just the beginning. There is significant work underway and we see substantial upside yet to come.” Munoz said.