United Air, doctors say CEO recovering well after heart transplant

Thu Jan 7, 2016 6:19pm EST
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By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N: Quote) said on Thursday that Chief Executive Oscar Munoz was recovering well the day after a heart transplant that raised concerns about how long the second-largest U.S. airline might be without its top executive.

Munoz, 57, has been on medical leave since suffering a heart attack in October. United said on Wednesday his previously expected first-quarter return may be delayed until the beginning of the second quarter.

Brett Hart, the carrier's general counsel, has run the airline in the interim.

"The patient's early course has been excellent, and the transplanted heart is functioning very well," Duc Pham, director of the Northwestern Medicine Heart Transplant Program, said in the United statement.

For months, United has aimed to allay concern that management shake-ups had left an inexperienced team of executives running its business.

Munoz became CEO in September after predecessor Jeff Smisek resigned following a probe into United's relationship with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In Munoz's absence, the airline has pursued the agenda he outlined in his month on the job. It struck tentative contract deals to rebuild workers' morale and improved on-time performance to boost customer satisfaction, lowest among rivals in J.D. Power's 2015 ranking.

Shares fell nearly 5 percent on Thursday.   Continued...

Customers of United wait in line to check in at Newark International airport in New Jersey, November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz