(Reuters) - United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) on Monday named insider Brett Hart as president of the airline, succeeding Scott Kirby who is due to take over the reins as chief executive next week in the midst of the airline industry’s biggest crisis.
Chicago-based United had announced in December that Kirby would succeed Oscar Munoz as CEO under a transition the airline had hoped would secure a growth path after some tumultuous years.
But as the coronavirus pandemic has crushed air travel demand in the past two months, airlines including United have shifted their focus to survival.
“More than ever, United needs - and as CEO, I will need - an experienced, level-headed strategist who can help us continue to make smart decisions and aggressively manage this crisis,” Kirby said in a memo to employees seen by Reuters.
Like Kirby, Hart will temporarily waive his salary, a measure that several top airline leaders are taking in an effort to cut costs.
Hart joined United from Sara Lee in 2010 as general counsel and served as acting CEO for six months when Munoz received treatment for a heart transplant. Under his current role as chief administrative officer, Hart was responsible for matters ranging from legal and environmental affairs to corporate real estate, government affairs and corporate communications.
Under the leadership transition effective May 20, Munoz will take on the role of executive chairman. The role of chief administrative officer will not be replaced.
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski, Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Lisa Shumaker