United CEO Oscar Munoz will step down in 2020, passing the CEO reigns to Scott Kirby, United’s President.
In May, Munoz will transition to Executive Chairman and Kirby will assume the role of CEO.
As rumors swirled that he might return to American Airlines in October, Kirby was very clear that he would “finish his career” at United, stating:
“I made a commitment to Oscar. Oscar was big enough to take a chance on me to bring me to United, and Oscar and United Airlines is the place where I’m going to end my career.”
Since the day he came to United, I have speculated that Kirby was being groomed to replace Munoz. It was only a question of when, not if.
In 2017, Munoz was to become Chairman of the Board while retaining his CEO title. Then the Dao incident occured and United moved in a different direction.
“The Board believes that separating the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board is the most appropriate structure at this time…Having an independent Chairman of the Board is a means to ensure that Mr. Munoz is able to more exclusively focus on his role as Chief Executive Officer.”
> Read More: Scott Kirby Positions Himself to be Next United CEO
Now, Munoz will finally move to the Board and relinquish control to Kirby.
But really since Kirby’s arrival it became clear that Munoz was more the figurehead while Kirby was running the show. To be clear, I don’t say that in any sort of disparaging way, as Munoz has been absolutely instrumental in building employee trust and serving as the trusted public face of United. The two worked wonderfully as a team (I saw it myself on several occasions). But Munoz did not have airline background; it is why he brought on Kirby in 2016.
Kirby, the man who wanted to charge for water at US Airways and began to dismantle AAdvantage while at AA, is often accused of being a short-sighted bean counter. That is not a hollow charge, though he has also done tremendous good for United. I’ll have more to say on that in a future post.
Munoz is on his way out. Kirby, the heir apparent, will soon be CEO. Kirby has a grown the network and improved operations, two things (at the very least) you can count on as he now officially runs the show.