Oscar Munoz (executive)

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Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz (cropped).jpg
Born (1959-01-05) January 5, 1959 (age 62)
EducationUniversity of Southern California (BS)
Pepperdine University (MBA)
OccupationExecutive Chairman of United Airlines
TermMay 2020 - Present
PredecessorJeff Smisek
SuccessorScott Kirby
Spouse(s)Cathy Munoz

Oscar Munoz (born January 5, 1959) is an American businessman and executive chairman of United Airlines. He previously served as chief executive officer (CEO) of United Airlines from 2015 to 2020. Prior to his role at United Airlines, Munoz served on the board of parent company United Continental Holdings (UCH) and held multiple executive positions at CSX Corporation and AT&T.

In December 2019, Munoz announced that he would transition to the role of executive chairman of the board in May 2020. President Scott Kirby took over the CEO role from Munoz in May 2020 at United's annual meeting.[1]

Early life[edit]

Munoz was born on January 5, 1959,[2] the eldest of ten children in a Mexican-American family from Southern California.[3] He was the first in his family to graduate from college.[2] Munoz earned a BS in business from the University of Southern California in 1982,[3] and an MBA from Pepperdine University.[4]


Munoz worked for US West for five years, before and briefly after the company merged with Qwest.[5] From 2001 to 2003, he served as the chief financial officer and vice president of consumer services at AT&T.[6] Munoz was previously regional vice president of finance and administration for Coca-Cola Co. and held various financial positions at PepsiCo Inc.[4] He joined the CSX Corporation in 2003 as chief financial officer and chief of strategy.[3][7] In 2012, he was promoted to chief operating officer of CSX, a role which he held until 2015, when he was named president of the company.[8][7] During his tenure as chief operating officer, Munoz was responsible for keeping trains running on time.[2] In mid-2015, Munoz was appointed as the next CEO of CSX, officially starting in the position at the end of the year, but left the company in September to become CEO of United Airlines.[3]

He was named CEO of United Airlines on September 8, 2015, succeeding Jeff Smisek.[8][7] At the time of this appointment, Munoz had served as a member of the board of directors of United's parent company, United Continental Holdings (UCH), since its formation in 2004.[7]

After becoming CEO of United Airlines, Munoz embarked on a "listening tour" of the company, meeting with disgruntled employees around the United States and discussing their concerns.[2] While this phase was intended to last for the first 90 days of the job,[9] Munoz was hospitalized after having a heart attack in October 2015, 38 days into the job.[3]

In 2015, five years after the merger of Continental and United, staff remained on separate labor contracts and were only allowed to fly on the routes and planes for the company where they were employed before the merger, causing contentions between management and labor.[3][2] Under Munoz's tenure, five-year contracts for flight attendants were approved within four months, after years of negotiations.[3][2][10] By the end of 2016, all union labor contracts were renegotiated.[11] Although pilots were unable to reach a joint labor agreement in 2012, United agreed to a two-year contract extension with the pilots' union in 2016, under Munoz, allowing pilots to retain some of the pay and benefits that were cut after the September 11 attacks.[2] On August 29, 2016, Munoz hired Scott Kirby, then-president of American Airlines, to fill the same role at United.[3]

In 2015, Munoz was one of two Hispanic CEOs in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list.[12] Munoz has been named among the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" by Hispanic Business magazine.[9] In March 2017, Munoz was named "Communicator of the Year for 2017" by PRWeek.[13]

The following month, Munoz received widespread criticism for his handling of the issues after a ticketed passenger was forcibly removed from United Airlines Flight 3411.[14] In an email to United employees, Munoz initially stated that he stood behind employees for having "followed established procedures" and said that Dao was "disruptive and belligerent."[15] In a second press release on April 11, which was more sensitive to public opinion, Munoz stated in the press release "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers."[16][17] Munoz's handling of the incident was described by various critics as a "fumbling response,"[13][18][19] a "major disappointment,"[20] and a "sort of a self-immolation [that] makes you wonder about his choice as CEO."[21] Munoz was already under pressure from activist shareholders to improve United's performance, including its customer relations, after he took charge of the airline in 2015.[22] After the incident, Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief of PRWeek US, stated "if PRWeek was choosing its Communicator of the Year now, we would not be awarding it to Oscar Munoz … In time, the episode and subsequent response will be quoted in textbooks as an example of how not to respond in a crisis."[23] Subsequently, on April 21, 2017, UCH announced that Munoz would remain chief executive officer of the airlines but would "not take broader control of the company as previously planned."[24] Munoz had been scheduled to assume the role of chairman of the board of UCH at the company's 2018 annual stockholders' meeting.[24]

In December 2019, it was announced that Munoz will transition to the role of executive chairman of the board in May 2020.[17] President Scott Kirby will take over the CEO role from Munoz in May 2020 at United's annual meeting.[25] Munoz is positioned to serve a one year term as chairman of United Airlines Holdings, succeeding retired Jane Garvey.[11][26]

In addition to serving on the board of directors for Continental Holdings and United Airlines, he has served on University of North Florida's board of trustees and the PAFA advisory board of Vanderbilt University.[9][27] Munoz is a voting member of the University of Southern California Board of Trustees, where he serves as co-chair of the Finance and Campus Planning Committee.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

Munoz is married; he and his wife have four children.[3] Munoz is also an avid cyclist[3] and has run in marathons.[2]


In 2011, the couple gave $100,000 to the University of North Florida to fund a scholarship for students who are the first in their family to attend college.[9] The same year, the couple donated $1 million to a middle school in Florida to fund a dropout prevention program.[30]


Munoz suffered a heart attack on October 15, 2015, a month after he assumed the position of CEO of United Airlines.[31] As he awaited a heart transplant, Munoz interviewed candidates for top management jobs in his apartment while connected to machines that kept his heart functioning.[2] On January 5, 2016, he received a heart transplant and returned to work in March 2016.[3] Munoz is one of few CEOs to continue in the position after receiving a heart transplant.[3] He has spoken publicly about his vegan diet and has since transitioned to what he refers to as a "flexitarian" diet after his heart transplant.[3]


  1. ^ Miller, Ben (May 20, 2020). "United Airlines' changing of the guard occurring Wednesday". Houston Business Journal. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zhang, Benjamin (February 18, 2017). "United's CEO cheated death a month into the job and is now leading the company in a battle to become America's best airline". Business Insider. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Tully, Shawn (November 18, 2016). "How United's Oscar Munoz Bounced Back After a Heart Transplant". Fortune. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Kuehner-Hebert, Katie (November 18, 2019). "Under CEO Oscar Munoz, United Airlines Holdings Inc. Ups Its 2019 Guidance". Chief Executive. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  5. ^ Rubino, Joe (February 7, 2020). "United Airlines CEO Munoz signs new DIA lease, addresses airport's troubled terminal project". The Denver Post. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  6. ^ Werley, Jensen (September 9, 2015). "Here's why Oscar Munoz made the surprising move from CSX to United Airlines". Chicago Business Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Lazare, Lewis (September 8, 2015). "United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek abruptly resigns, as Oscar Munoz steps into the post". Chicago Business Journal. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Morris, Betsy; Carey, Susan (September 9, 2015). "New United CEO Oscar Munoz Is Unusual Choice for Airline Industry". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d Karp, Gregory (September 9, 2015). "New United CEO faces challenges ahead". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  10. ^ Carey, Susan (August 18, 2016). "United Continental Names New CFO, Commercial Chief". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Leinfelder, Andrea (December 5, 2019). "United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz to become executive chairman". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  12. ^ Garcia, Ahiza (September 5, 2015). "Only 9 Hispanic CEOs at top 500 companies". CNN Money. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Rhodan, Maya (April 10, 2017). "People Are Not Happy the United Airlines CEO Was Recently Named 'Communicator of the Year'". Time. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  14. ^ "United Airlines boss Oscar Munoz will not resign". BBC News. April 12, 2017. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  15. ^ Rosoff, Matt (April 10, 2017). "United CEO doubles down in email to employees, says passenger was 'disruptive and belligerent'". CNBC. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  16. ^ Domonoske, Camila (April 11, 2017). "After Unsatisfying Answers, United Offers 'Deepest Apology' For Violent Confrontation". NPR. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  17. ^ a b LeBeau, Phil (December 5, 2019). "United's Oscar Munoz to step down as CEO, President Scott Kirby will take over". CNBC. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  18. ^ Sasso, Michael; Bachman, Justin; Lin, Linly (April 11, 2017). "United CEO Apologizes Again After First Mea Culpa Falls Flat". Bloomberg News. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  19. ^ Rosoff, Matt (April 10, 2017). "United CEO doubles down in email to employees, says passenger was 'disruptive and belligerent'". CNBC. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  20. ^ Petroff, Alanna (April 11, 2017). "United Airlines shows how to make a PR crisis a total disaster". CNN Money. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "United's Munoz Goes From Savior to Man on Hot Seat Real Fast". Bloomberg News. April 11, 2017. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  22. ^ Wise, Alana (April 12, 2017). "United Airlines faces mounting pressure over hospitalized passenger". Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  23. ^ Barrett, Steve (April 12, 2017). "United Airlines needs to do better". PR Week. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Wattles, Jackie; Ostrower, John (April 22, 2017). "United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz won't be promoted to chairman". CNN Money. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  25. ^ Lazare, Lewis (December 5, 2019). "Inside United Airlines' move to tap Scott Kirby as CEO". Chicago Business Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  26. ^ Josephs, Leslie (December 6, 2019). "United Airlines' next CEO is a 'details guy' who will have labor contracts and the 737 Max on his plate". CNBC. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Kuehner-Hebert, Katie (November 18, 2019). "Under CEO Oscar Munoz, United Airlines Holdings Inc. Ups Its 2019 Guidance". Chief Executive. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  28. ^ "Finance and Campus Planning | Board of Trustees | USC". boardoftrustees.usc.edu. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  29. ^ "Trustees | Board of Trustees | USC". boardoftrustees.usc.edu. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  30. ^ Sanders, Topher (August 18, 2011). "Eugene Butler Middle School gets $1 million donation to help prevent dropouts". Florida Headline News. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  31. ^ "United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz Suffers Heart Attack". The Wall Street Journal. October 16, 2015. Retrieved October 16, 2015.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Michael Ward
President of CSX Corporation
Succeeded by
Clarence Gooden
Preceded by
Jeff Smisek
CEO of United Continental Holdings
Succeeded by
Scott Kirby