Oscar Munoz Won’t Get Planned Promotion to Chairman of United

Oscar Munoz Won’t Get Planned Promotion to Chairman of United

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Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United Airlines.

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Richard Drew/Associated Press

The chief executive of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, became a casualty of the public relations crisis gripping the air carrier, as the company that runs the airline said on Friday that he would not ascend as planned to the role of chairman.

The company, United Continental Holdings, is also adjusting its incentive compensation program for senior executives to make it “directly and meaningfully tied to progress in improving the customer experience.” The announcements were made in a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The moves follow a public relations catastrophe that began almost two weeks ago, when a passenger was violently dragged off a United flight by a police officer before its departure from Chicago to make room for a company employee. The episode was captured by other passengers on cellphones and quickly spread on social media.

Initially, Mr. Munoz appeared to blame the passenger, Dr. David Dao, for causing the incident. But amid a backlash, Mr. Munoz changed course and said he felt “shame” over how the situation was handled.

A lawyer for Dr. Dao, 69, said his client sustained a variety of injuries, including a broken nose, two knocked-out teeth and sinus problems that may require reconstructive surgery. The lawyer, Thomas A. Demetrio, made the announcement amid a throng of news cameras in Chicago.

United has offered a refund to every passenger on the flight and has promised to no longer have the police remove passengers from planes that are too full. But those gestures and Mr. Munoz’s apologies have done little to quell the controversy as United found itself the source of criticism from customers and the butt of jokes from late-night comics.

In addition, lawmakers have demanded more details about how and why the incident took place.

In the proxy filing Friday, United Continental said Mr. Munoz had voluntarily agreed to drop a clause in his employment contract under which he would ascend to the role of company chairman next year.

He also agreed to the elimination of another contract clause that would have allowed him to resign his post as chief executive if he was not also given the role of chairman, according to the filing.

The company’s board of directors will now determine its new chairman.

“Having an independent chairman of the board is a means to ensure that Mr. Munoz is able to more exclusively focus on his role as chief executive officer,” the filing said.

In 2016, Mr. Munoz received total compensation of $18.7 million, with $13.8 million in stock awards accounting for a large share of it. The $18.7 million was more than triple the $5.8 million he received in total compensation in 2015, the filing shows.

The proxy notes that the 2016 compensation figure reflected the granting of a $6.8 million stock award that Mr. Munoz received when joining United.

The past two months have been brutal ones for Mr. Munoz and United’s image.

In late March, two teenage girls were barred from boarding a flight after a gate agent decided that the leggings they were wearing were inappropriate, setting off criticism on social media.

Earlier that month, a trade publication, PR Week, had given Mr. Munoz its Communicator of the Year award. But by mid-April, after the leggings incident and the ejected passenger, the publication was regretting the move.

“It’s fair to say that if PR Week was choosing its Communicator of the Year now, we would not be awarding it to Oscar Munoz,” the publication said.

Mr. Munoz joined United as its president and chief executive in September 2015, having most recently served as president and chief operating officer of CSX Corporation, a railroad and freight transportation company.

A month after his appointment, however, Mr. Munoz had a heart attack and ultimately underwent a heart transplant. He did not return to work until March of last year.

United’s business had otherwise been steady. In its latest quarterly earnings report, released on Monday, the company said revenue increased 2.7 percent, to $8.4 billion, compared with a year earlier.

And despite all the public pressure after the incident in Chicago, shares in the company have been largely flat.

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