Scott Kirby, New United CEO in 2020?

When Scott Kirby departed American Airlines as its President he walked away with $13 million and lifetime travel privileges. He immediately became United’s President.

Kirby probably thought the role would be even bigger. When United ousted CEO Jeff Smisek as a result of a federal corruption probe, they put board member Oscar Munoz in charge. Munoz had no airline experience and quickly developed health problems.

  • Munoz was supposed to become United’s Chairman. That was put on hold after the David Dao passenger dragging incident.

  • It would have made perfect sense for Munoz to become non-executive Chairman and turn over the CEO job to Scott Kirby.

That could still happen. Munoz’s 5 year contract runs through 2020. During this past week’s earnings call a reporter asked Munoz whether or not he intends to stay past the end of his current employment agreement. The call was ended before he answered and it’s not reflected in the transcript.

However United offers this statement from Munoz, which goes out of its way to say anything about his future prospects with the airline,

Right now, my focus, and the focus of my team, is entirely on doing a great job every day for United by putting the customer at the center of everything we do, continuing our growth plan, and running a great airline.

Surely the details aren’t fleshed out. United just named former FAA administrator Jane Garvey as non-executive Chairwoman. Will she be ready to leave in two years? Will Munoz get pushed aside? Will Kirby stay without a path upward, or will another airline lure him away? It will likely be two years before we know.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “will another airline lure him away”

    As long as it’s not Delta… He can ruin any airline he wants except the one I fly, thanks.

  2. United should ensure they have counsel retained for the upcoming bankruptcy filing If Kirby takes over. there isn’t a more customer unfriendly executive in the aviation industry. hes a numbers guy that seems to always pick the path that devalues the customer.

  3. Scott Kirby is practically already the CEO, Oscar is just a powerless figurehead that doesn’t push back against the customer degredation that Kirby is focused on. As terrible as it would be with Kirby at the top, it’s not like he’s not already calling all the shots. Sad, I wish United would fire Scott Kirby because the only thing he knows how to do is ruin the customer experience.

  4. Scott Kirby will cause the ultimate downfall and failure of United… If the board members don’t see this, they should burn in hell and die with him…

  5. We need to open up competition in the US to global airlines. I’m tired of taking domestic planes and feeling like I am in some third world country because our airlines are coddled.

  6. 2-year contract. 5-year contract. Good God!

    This sort of Game Of Thrones leadership makes for amusing watching (I don’t fly UA) but it makes for a horrible airline.

    And it makes any long term vision impossible to implement.

  7. It’s all about moral compass.

    The t-shirt example is spot on… Would go to Costco or Sam Club but only want 1/2 the toilet paper at 1/2 the cost? That’s not how it works.

    At the same time, United shouldn’t be threatening customers… The Solution is simple… Hold their CC on file, if they don’t finish all the segments, charge their card… then send it to a collection agency… but make sure the customer is fully aware at booking… But of course we all know the customers were fully aware of what they where doing then they booked anyway…. moral compass.

  8. @ MikeL No … this is MORE like (not exactly analogous) going to Costco buying a huge thing of toilet paper for $10 and then splitting it with your non-member buddy and having him hand you $5. Costco would say each person that comes in needs a membership, but they agreed to sell you the whole thing for $10. They’re free to revoke your membership just like United is free to ban you from flying United … but they don’t get to complain about a past transaction where you outsmarted their ability to maximize profit.

  9. Thank You everyone for the encouragements.
    It would be an interesting situation as CCBW. (Chief Cook & Bottle Washer).
    Think about it, my CCBW competitor Duggie has fewer shares of his company than I. Interesting collusion possibilities with possible financial rewards. lol

  10. Why would any airline want Scott Kirby? He doesn’t get results…he just thrives in monopolized markets. That man can tarnish the reputation of ANY brand! Delta would NEVER take him.

  11. God no. Please. The America West legacy of awfulness for the consumer has been passed around like herpes and it’s time to stop. Dump Kirby (sorry, Scotch). Or at least demote him to CFO, so he can just crunch numbers.

  12. @Ric – Don’t you mean send Kirby to Emirates? Etihad is already in financial turmoil, so they don’t need any assistance from him.

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