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United Airlines is tapping Brett J. Hart to take over as its new president.
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“I am honored and energized as I take on these new responsibilities to lead this incredible team that I am convinced will build United into a thriving industry leader,” Hart said, adding that while the path ahead will not be easy, he’s confident United can stand up to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. “United's bright future is only possible because of the commitment of the most talented airline professionals in the world who serve United and our customers every single day, and I could not be prouder of them.”
The move is part of a previously announced succession plan that will see current United CEO Oscar Munoz transition to the company’s executive chair, while President Scott Kirby moves to chief executive after the annual shareholders’ meeting.
“Brett is a well-established and widely respected leader who has established a strong track record, over the last decade, helping United navigate complex challenges across all areas of our business," Munoz said in the statement. "He is recognized inside and outside of the airline industry for his leadership and has played a central role in shaping our strategy, culture and leading our community engagement around the world.”
Hart joined United in 2010, filling a variety of roles, including interim chief executive in October 2015 while Munoz recovered from a heart transplant. Hart previously served as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Sara Lee Corporation.
Hart will join Munoz and Kirby in forgoing his salary as president as the airline industry struggles to book flights as Americans mostly stay home to limit the spread of the virus.
United is among U.S. airlines that have accepted U.S. government payroll aid that bans job cuts until Sept. 30. But the airline has warned that air travel demand hit by the outbreak is unlikely to have recovered by that date, forcing it to downsize. The company told employees early this month that it expects its management and administrative ranks to be around 30 percent smaller starting in October, per a company memo seen by Reuters.
Shares of the airline have dipped 17 percent in the last month.