United Continental Holdings, which runs the world’s second-largest airline as measured by revenue passenger kilometres, was dealing with a new shock at the weekend after its recently appointed chief executive had a heart attack just weeks into the job.
Oscar Munoz, who took over the top job at United Continental Holdings on 8 September 2015, is receiving hospital treatment after suffering a heart attack, according to people familiar with the matter cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Munoz, 56, took over after the airline ousted his predecessor Jeff Smisek during a US federal investigation into the airline’s ties with the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. United Continental made the decision although Smisek has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Munoz took the reins after Smisek’s abrupt departure. United has faced industrial relations problems since United’s merger with Continental in 2010 and Munoz has pledged to fix them.
Munoz had the heart attack on Thursday and news was being awaited in the weekend about its severity and whether United might need an interim chief executive.
News of the health problem leaked out after Munoz missed a meeting with airline union leaders and the carrier told employees their new chief executive officer “was unable to attend.”
Disclosure of the reason brought expressions of concern and sympathy for Munoz, who is married with four children, but it also brought criticism from some critics who said United should have disclosed the news earlier.
Skift.com quoted a professor of business administration saying shareholders had a right to know swiftly of any emergency affecting a company and “the argument about privacy goes out the window if the CEO has a serious health issue”.
Written by Peter Needham