United CEO Undergoes Heart Transplant

Filed Under: United

Last September Jeff Smisek stepped down as United CEO, following the scandal involving the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Smisek was replaced by Oscar Munoz, who seems like a good guy who genuinely wants to change United for the better. Unfortunately Munoz suffered a heart attack about a month into his tenure.

A few days after Munoz’s heart attack, United named a new acting CEO, Brett J. Hart. Hart was United’s executive vice president and general counsel. That seemed like an odd choice to me, given that Smisek was also general counsel at Continental back in the day. If United was truly trying to show their customers and employees that they wanted to take a new direction, you’d think they wouldn’t appoint someone with a similar history.

In November, Munoz shared an update on his condition and said he was “on the road to recovery,” and that he planned on being back in his role at United by the first quarter of 2016.

It has just been reported that Oscar Munoz had a heart transplant today, which is kind of a big deal. Via an update from United:

United Airlines today announced that Oscar Munoz, the company’s president and CEO, underwent a heart transplant operation early today and is in recovery. A transplant was considered the preferred treatment and was not the result of a setback in his recovery. The United team wishes Oscar well during his recovery, and expects him to return to United at the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter.

The company will provide additional information in the next 24 hours.

Wow! I hope he recovers speedily and wish him the best. While I’m (obviously) not a doctor, based on everything I’ve read a return by the end of the first quarter or early in the second quarter seems highly optimistic.

Here’s to hoping the recovery is quick and he can return to his role, as he seems like a great guy! Obviously I respect the right to privacy for him and his family during this time, though once he’s fully recovered it would be fascinating to hear a bit more — was there a previous heart condition, were they planning on a heart transplant all along, etc.

  1. This guy gets privacy and anything specific to his own condition is covered by HIPAA, absolute confidentiality. I would say it’s even improper to ask, it’s more than just prying.

    That said and general experience in cardiac transplantation is it’s a big deal. You’re right, less than three months to go in the quarter and it’s a longshot that he’ll be back in any meaningful way. He could rejoin the United team in some kind of an advisory role, but I highly doubt he could be involved in the senior leadership of an important carrier. United management is being less than honest with the public by not simply disclosing their permanent transition plan and keeping a seat at the table open for Oscar in the future.

    Serious health events are unfortunate and a real trauma for those close to the person involved, however a corporation is a separate entity and must live it’s own life separate from any single individual. They’re lucky oil is cheap and shareholders are looking other way while profits soar but their loyal frequent fliers look for any other possible choice other than United.

    Senior management needs to step up and do the right thing for the company, for its employees, and its customers.

  2. Your post is PR levels of kind. This guy won’t be the CEO of United. I’m sure he will do great things in life but United needs to move on and get its ship worked out

  3. Wow. A transplant. This guy was never on the road to recovery then really. That’s a massive massive heart attack to necessitates heart transplant. That means he’s been sick for months and recovery from a transplant is a whole other deal. I wish him well but United could face criticism for not being transparent about their CEO.


  4. Yes, a very big deal. This takes a guy with the life expectancy of no more than a few weeks and give him an average 12 years, potential he longer given that he probably has access to the best care, is highly motivated, and will be very compliant. The recovery time frame is highly dependent on the condition of all his other body organs, decides his heart. If in good shape, then the timeframe laid out in this article is very reasonable. It is our expectation that patients return to live a productive life.

  5. And I second the comment above on organ donation! You have many (young) blog readers and can make a big impact if your signing up for organ donation influences a handful of them

  6. Wow just read that the transplant was today (well today when the press release was written). Goodness I wonder if the news was leaking out because I would think that they would want to keep that secret for a little while… honestly the recovery hasn’t even started.. the first 24-48 hours are very very touch and go after a heart transplant… it seems that all the news on Munoz has been spun in the most positive matter …. Apple waited about 2 months before releasing the news about Jobs getting a transplant… heart transplants are a big big brutal surgery… Like I said I wish him well but I really wish they had kept this more private…


  7. Wow what a surprise. Rich well connected person gets sick and bumps right to the top of the transplant list.

    Who’d have thought

  8. How did this guy get a heart so fast? Aren’t people on the transplant list for multiple years? It’s good to be CEO of a massive company it seems.

  9. Ha! A heart transplant without waiting for months or years, and I bet he is receiving full pay and benefits while he is out of work. Does anyone know the sick-pay policy for new rank-and-file employees at United? I bet most folks who have been employed for less than six months don’t get paid if they have a serious illness.

  10. Organ transplants are strictly controlled by UNOS, an independent organization, and priority is based on several criteria related to the health of the patient. While there are geographic differences as to wait times due to the the critical timeliness of a cadaver organ’s viability, there is no reason to suspect the recipient’s notoriety had any influence and those saying so are only undermining the important effort to encourage more people to become organ donors.

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