United Airlines announced Thursday that CEO Oscar Munoz would step down in May 2020, ushering in current airline President Scott Kirby as the Chicago-based airline's next chief executive.
Munoz has been the face of United since he took the helm of the airline almost five years ago. He helped repair United's image after its previous CEO resigned in a federal corruption scandal, and worked to build better relations with the airline's workforce. Critically, Munoz helped the airline weather the fallout from 2017's “dragging” incident that left a bumped passenger bloodied – although Munoz took some heat for initially calling Dr. David Dao “belligerent” and “disruptive.”
Munoz will stay on as executive chairman of United's board. The transition was largely expected, with a successor long waiting in the wings.
Kirby is a familiar face in the airline industry – even if you've never heard his name. The longtime airline executive joined United in 2016 after spending years with American Airlines in a similar position, where he helped with its merger of U.S. Airways. He was also widely viewed as spearheading some of the cost-cutting efforts at American that hurt flyers' experience onboard before jumping ship for United.
At United, Kirby has been part of some major recent changes – especially some exciting new routes from the U.S. That includes the upcoming launch of nonstop flights to Cape Town (CPT) from United's Newark (EWR) hub.
His takeover as CEO is slated for May 20, 2020.
“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 in a statement. “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.
A change in leadership means change is likely on the way for United – whether it's in May 2020, when Kirby takes over, or further down the line.