NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Airlines (UAL.N) has hired former Obama administration press secretary Josh Earnest as chief communications officer, United said on Thursday, as the carrier seeks to recover from a string of public relations missteps.
Earnest replaces former communications head Jim Olson, who stepped down in January after two years in the post.
Olson’s tenure was punctuated by public relations blunders, including an April 2017 incident in which a paying United passenger was physically dragged down the aisle of a parked plane to make room for an airline employee.
In the months since, United has struggled to contain public fallout from that incident and other customer service shortfalls. The airline’s publicity suffered another blow in March when a small French bulldog puppy, Kokito, died onboard one of its flights after an airline employee forced the dog’s owner to stow its carrying case in the plane’s overhead bin.
“Josh is a proven leader and world-class communications strategist who has thrived when the stakes are the highest - and the margin for error is the smallest,” Chief Executive Oscar Munoz said in a statement.
Prior to joining United, Earnest served as press secretary for President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2016. He has since worked as a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
Earnest will begin his role at United on May 21.
Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Cynthia Osterman