WOW: American President Scott Kirby Resigns, Becomes President Of United

Filed Under: American, United

Per a press release that just hit the wire, American’s president, Scott Kirby, has just resigned and taken a job as United’s president:

United Continental Holdings, Inc. (UAL) today announced that Scott Kirby has been named president of United Airlines. In this newly created role, Kirby will assume responsibility for United’s operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning and revenue management. Kirby’s appointment is effective immediately and he will report to Oscar Munoz, United’s CEO. Kirby joins United from American Airlines, where he held the title of president since the merger of American and US Airways in 2013.

“Scott is a proven leader, whose deep airline experience and expertise will further accelerate our efforts to build the best airline in the industry,” said Munoz. “Scott’s appointment, along with other recent leadership announcements, is the culmination of the formation of my senior leadership team. This is just the latest step in our mission to be an agile and innovative industry leader.”

Kirby is a well-known industry veteran, with a broad and accomplished three-decade airline career with senior leadership roles at America West and US Airways, where he was named president in 2006. Kirby started his career at the Pentagon and in the technology sector and earned bachelor degrees in computer science and operations research from the U.S. Air Force Academyand a Master of Science in operations research from George Washington University.

“I am honored to be joining United at this important and exciting time and to have the opportunity to help accelerate the momentum the airline has achieved over the past year,” said Kirby. “I see real opportunity to build on the airline’s vast global network and, along with my 86,000 United teammates, create the world’s best airline for employees, customers, and shareholders.”

WOW! Scott Kirby has been Doug Parker’s right hand man since the America West days, so this is huge news.

On the surface this doesn’t really seem like a promotion, since he’s going from being president of the world’s largest airline to being president of the world’s second largest airline. However, my guess is that he realized he probably won’t make it to the CEO position at American anytime soon. He has a similar management style to Doug Parker, so if investors continue to be happy, chances are that Doug Parker will stick around. If investors aren’t happy, chances are they won’t want Kirby in charge of the airline either.

I assume he sees more of a future as eventually becoming the CEO of United, once Oscar Munoz retires.

United flyers, get ready for some, ahem, “enhancements,” as the low cost carrier king is coming your way! Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Scott Kirby, but he has long stayed true to his low cost carrier roots, so I wouldn’t expect that to change. I respect what he does for airlines, but just don’t love it as a customer.

On the plus side, I think Munoz is fantastic, so hopefully he can still keep the airline headed in the right direction. It’s certainly better than Smisek & Co., who were running the airline before.

What do you make of this announcement?

  1. Oh dear god… Seriously United!!!!!!?!?!?! I didn’t think that they could get worse than Smisek… and it just happened.

  2. @lucky why these low cost airline CEOs so popular? Alan Joyce is another one! Seriously if low cost airlines are that good, stay there don’t move to full cost airlines!

  3. Kirby has been hired to implement Munoz’s vision and not to bring his failed “enhancements” to UA at a time when things finally seem to be going the right way after the $mi$ek debacle…

    Munoz has the vision and the power to turn it into reality, and he does not seem like a CEO that takes failure very well. So, Kirby will either get on with the program or his tenure in his new position will be short-lived. If making CEO is his ultimate goal, then being a “Yes, Mr. Munoz”-man would get him there…

  4. Wonder what the impact of him leaving will have on AA? Maybe now that the Low Cost Carrier King is gone, the bleeding will stop……

  5. @DCS really hope you are right. I feel like United has done a great job of turning things around since Munoz took over. Hopefully Kirby and Oscar can work together to continue to improve things at UAL.

  6. How in the hell did he not have a non-compete that would keep him from jumping ship to another major carrier?

  7. UA should have got rid of Smisek a while ago and hired Horton from AA during the US merger.
    This is too much of the same thing at UA/AA

  8. @DB — Munoz quite likely has confidence is Kirby’s experience to pick him up immediately after he’s cut by AA. Experienced management is what Munoz needs to implement his vision, so he must have seen Kirby filling a spot where he saw a void or weakness. Let’s hope this is hire is also “visionary”…

  9. So glad this idiot is gone from my beloved American! Please screw up United, even more than they already are. At least you have gone from American’s race to the bottom with my two least favorite carriers, Delta and United. American, you could now think about going back to being the best US airline instead of screwing your loyal flyers for the almighty dollar! Scott Kirby, RIP

  10. We power users of FF programs tend to dislike anything that negatively impacts us.

    Truth is, Kirby’s been a part of a team that’s taken a bleeding and imploding carrier, America West, and turned them into a money making business that was able to take over, first US, and now AA.

    If this were any other business, we’d be hailing them as geniuses. Clearly, Munoz saw this.

  11. “Scott is a proven leader, whose deep airline experience and expertise will further accelerate our efforts to build the best airline in the industry,”

    Ah yeah, ok, whatever.

  12. I need to hire his lawyer next time I am negotiating an employment contract. My non-compete clause says I must wait 6 months before taking a job with a direct competitor.

  13. I guess this is good for shareholders. What’s good for owners is typically bad for pax and employees though. I see UA and AA as essentially racing each other to the bottom.

  14. “UA should have got rid of Smisek a while ago and hired Horton from AA during the US merger”


    Funniest thing I have read all day.

  15. Ditto on the non-compete clause. Amazing!

    This reminds me of those stories of Uber snatching Lyft executives overnight.

  16. Scott Kirby was not let go from/by AA…He left on his own today. He had no non-compete clause, employment contract or anything like that. He leaves AA $13+ Million richer !!!!!

  17. I think the issue here is that USAir has taken over AA and the legacy AA people are bolting. Suzanne Rubin now Scott Kirby. I think this is a plus for United.

    Now let’s get Suzanne to lead Mileage Plus.

    So us former UA/CO people will just go back to UA then.

  18. @Randy – Kirby was not a legacy AA person.

    Besides, AA mgmt lead their airline into bankruptcy. Why would you want to keep them around?

  19. @Bo and all questioning non-competes:

    AA is known for not having a noncompete clause in the employment terms for their executive members.

  20. I believe I heard last week that Kirby will also be receiving a severance package and stock options even though this is a voluntary move.

  21. From a really bad airline to the worst of them. Great move!!! Interesting to know if there was not a non-compete agreement.

  22. Everyone is focused on the wrong thing. Wondering if Kirby was fired or not? Why there was on non-compete clause? Who cares. When I heard the news the first thing that came to my mind was that this is all part of a bigger plan. And it’s all by design. It’s called Collusion.

    I think Parker and Kirby are still very good friends. It’s not about Kirby wanting more power. They probably sat around the dinner table one evening and envisioned that if we controlled American and United they have now eliminated the competition. When your close friends run your “competition”, there is nothing to stop them from destroying anything remaining of value to the traveler or loyal programs.

    Since everyone make decision on what Delta does, now all three can be in collusion with one another to become all the same airline with prices and loyalty programs. Any hope one of the US big three ever bucking the system and distinguishing themselves as visionary in how to run an airline that would benefit the traveler will be gone for good.

  23. Hilarious how this Lucky kid has “respect” for somebody he’s never met. Always talking about these execs like he has a clue about who they really are and what they do, other than what he reads on the press every once in a while. Poor kid…trying to make himself important. Laughable.

  24. @Keefer…I totally agree w/your reply…The choice should really be: do we want to fly on Airbus Skies, Boeing Airlines, Embraer Airways, Sukhoi Jetways, or with Bombardier Canadian Contrails…and not with AA, DL, or UA…because they’re ALL becoming the same!

  25. Non-compete clauses are very hard to enforce so most companies in Texas seldom have them in their employment contracts.

  26. @JH…. I think I get your point. If not an attack on mine. There really aren’t many other choices for travel out there domestically.

    For the record, I understand it from a business standpoint why loyalty programs and their benefits are being whittled away. But as a frequent flyer, I’m frustrated and sad to see the direction it’s going.

  27. Considering that he is going to have a healthy stock option to cash in probably three to five years from now, it’s in Kirby’s best interest to generate growth of the UA brand. The question is will the growth be organic or inorganic? UA certainly cannot hurt from an efficient and streamlined operations management. Ultimately good news for UA shareholders.

  28. @Ray – Absolutely untrue. Drafted appropriately (and carefully), combined with proper consideration, noncompetes are absolutely enforced regularly (save in certain states with special or outright prohibitions, like California; Texas is not such a state).

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