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United hires American’s No. 2 executive

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz | AP file photo

United Airlines has hired away the president and No. 2 executive at American Airlines to take the same job with the Chicago-based airline.

United Continental Holdings Inc. said Monday that Scott Kirby has been named president and will oversee operations, sales and other duties.

Scott Kirby named president of United Airlines | United Airlines
Scott Kirby named president of United Airlines | United Airlines

Kirby, 49, was often seen as a likely successor to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

Instead, he will add airline-industry expertise to United’s management. The airline is led by Oscar Munoz, a longtime railroad executive who became CEO less than a year ago.

“Scott is a proven leader, whose deep airline experience and expertise will further

accelerate our efforts to build the best airline in the industry,” Munoz said in a news release. “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.”

Munoz said Kirby’s hiring culminated the building of his senior leadership team, which included this month’s hiring of a new chief financial officer and chief commercial officer. Earlier this year, two activist shareholders threatened a proxy battle if Munoz did not surround himself with more people experienced in the airline industry.

Kirby’s departure from American breaks up what was an unusually long-tenured management team for the airline business. Kirby worked for Parker at America West Airlines and US Airways, where he rose to president in 2006. Both men took the same jobs at American after engineering the December 2013 merger of the two airlines.

Kirby’s replacement at American will be another member of that team, Robert Isom, 52.

Isom joined US Airways in 2007 as chief operating officer and was credited with reducing that airline’s flight delays. When US Airways management took control of post-merger American, he kept the same job at the combined carrier, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas.