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United Appoints Acting CEO As Oscar Munoz Goes on Medical Leave

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Tonight, United announced the appointment of Brett J. Hart as acting CEO. New President and CEO Oscar Munoz has been on medical leave following a heart attack last Thursday. According to a United press release, “At this time, it is too soon to know the course of treatment and timing of recovery.”

From the airline:

The UAL board of directors has named Brett J. Hart, currently United’s executive vice president and general counsel, as acting CEO. This appointment is effective immediately. In addition to serving as United’s general counsel, Hart has been responsible for government and regulatory affairs, corporate real estate, customer experience, corporate security, community affairs, contact centers and food services. Prior to joining United in 2010, Hart served as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Sara Lee, partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, and special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Hart has a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and English from the University of Michigan and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

Oscar Munoz hit the ground running when he took over for former CEO Jeff Smisek early last month. In United’s press release this morning, Hart reinforced his own commitment to improving the airline in Munoz’s absence, saying “Oscar’s agenda is focused on customer service, teamwork and innovation and I, along with the executive team, will continue to move quickly to implement it.”

The airline ends with a slightly ominous statement: “The board of directors remains actively engaged in preparing for all potential outcomes regarding the company’s leadership structure.” The TPG team wishes Oscar a speedy recovery!

United's acting CEO, Brett J. Hart.
United’s acting CEO, Brett J. Hart.

Update: United posted a memo from its acting CEO on the United Airtime website. You’ll find his note below:

I today accepted the appointment of acting CEO of United Airlines. Those of you who have been following our progress lately know that Oscar has a passion for great customer service and an urgency to get things done. As the acting CEO supported by the board and executive leadership team, I can assure you that we will continue the focus on providing employees the tools that they need to give our customers great service, and on intently listening to what our customers need and expect. We will not only continue to listen to your feedback, but in the coming days we will be announcing some of the changes that have come from your feedback. Our intent to build transparent dialogue with you, our customers and employees, remains unchanged—as does our commitment to provide the great customer service and operational performance we believe you should expect from us. Please continue to provide your feedback and ask questions through United Airtime. We know what we have to do and we can’t stop now.

Most notable is this line: “We will not only continue to listen to your feedback, but in the coming days we will be announcing some of the changes that have come from your feedback.” So, despite Munoz’s temporary departure, we should see changes (improvements, hopefully) within the next few days. We’ll be sure to report back when we hear more!

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