Oscar Munoz is an American businessman who became the CEO of United Airlines as well as the president of the company. He has received multiple awards for his leadership, but he has also had his share of criticisms along the way. He brought an impressive resume to the table and has led a truly remarkable life in his professional career. To help you become better acquainted with him as a leader and as a human being, here are 20 things that you probably didn’t know about Oscar Munoz.
1. He is 60 years old
Oscar has had six decades on this earth and during this time he has built a remarkable career in business leadership for himself. He was born in January of 1959 and he is approaching his 61st birthday. Throughout his years he has gained valuable experience and he has made many significant contributions to the companies that he has served so well.
2. Munoz is the eldest child in the family
When Oscar was born, he was the first child in the family. This set him on a leadership path from an early age. He was born to Mexican-American parents and was living in California a the time that he was born. Eight more children were born into the families making Oscar the oldest of nine children. He and his siblings were raised in California.
3. He was also the first to receive a college degree
Neither of Oscar Munoz’s parents had graduated from college. This made him the first in his immediate family to go to college and graduate with his degree. After graduating from high school, Oscar enrolled in the University of Southern California in the business department. He earned his bachelor of science degree in business. Mr. Munoz believes in the power of education to equip us for the professional challenges in life and he continued his education past the bachelor’s level and signed up for graduate classes as the distinguished Pepperdine University. He earned his MBA from Pepperdine.
4. Oscar started out in the beverage industry
The first job that Mr. Munoz got after college was at the Pepsi Beverages company. He joined the business in 1982 where he worked in a variety of financial positions. He stayed with Pepsi for four years until he was offered a more responsible and higher paying job with one of their major competitors.
5. Munoz left Pepsi for Coca-Cola
Mr. Munoz was hired with Pepsi’s direct competition in 1986. He served at Coca Cola in a variety of roles during the 11 years that he spent with the beverage distiller until 1997. He worked his way up to the title of Region VP of Finance and Administration. He gained a great deal of experience in more than a decade with Coca-Cola, before leaving to join a new company in a different industry.
6. He switched industries and moved up the career ladder
After more than 16 years in the beverage industry serving in several financial and some leadership positions, Mr. Munoz was ready to make yet another move on the corporate ladder. With no gaps in his employment history, he joined the U.S West company. This was a vastly different landscape than the beverage industry as it dealt with communications. He was hired as the Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration and he worked at the company until December of 2000.
7. Munoz was offered a better job with AT&T
At the beginning of January of 2001, he accepted a position with the AT& T communications company. He was brought on board as the CFO for Consumer Services. This was yet another financial position but it was in a high-ranking leadership position within the company. We can see a pattern of steady upward progress in Mr. Munoz’s career as he steadily moved forward from one company to another, wisely accepting positions with increasing responsibility. He remained with AT& T from January 2001 through April of 2003 spending a total of 2 years and 4 months with the company.
8. Oscar left AT&T to join CSX
In 2003, Mr. Munoz was hired at CSX. He was initially brought on board with the company as their executive vice-president and chief financial officer. He served in this capacity for 8 years and 9 months before being promoted to the title of Chief Operating Officer of the Jacksonville, Florida location. He worked at this job until February of 2015 when he was once again promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer. He stayed in this capacity with CSX for an additional 8 months, leaving the company in September of 2015.
9. He became a member of the Continental Airlines as a Board member before joining the United Airlines workforce
As we were reviewing Oscar Munoz’s work history we learned that he became a member of the board of directors for United Airlines in 2004. This is a position which he has served in for fifteen years and he still maintains his membership on the board. This means that he became a member while he was working for CSX.
10. He was hired at United Airlines as CEO in 2015
Following his usual pattern, Oscar Munoz left one job to move up the corporate ladder with yet increasing responsibility and a higher position on the leadership scale. He is still the acting CEO of the company as well as serving on the board, which he has been doing now for 15 years.
11. Oscar Munoz brought a wealth of experience to the job at United Airlines
Mr. Munoz served on the board of United Continental Holdings since 2010, when United and Continental completed their merger. In essence, UCH is the parent company, so he was involved in teh same organization that hired him to lead its operations. They were familiar with him and with his achievements and had great confidence in his leadership abilities because they had already worked with him and saw him in action.
12. Munoz received praise and criticism in the same year
In 2017, Oscar Munoz was named PR Week’s Communicator of the Year. This was a high honor and recognition, but it would only be a month before he would receive some fairly harsh criticisms. A situation occurred when a ticketed passenger was forcibly removed from a flight at United Airlines. The response that Mr. Munoz gave was not well-received and it almost seemed ironic that the incident occurred within such a short period of time after his recognition for having top-notch communication skills was recognized.
13. He received an admonition as a response from PR Week
The situation with the United Airlines crisis and the poorly thought out and badly worded response given by Munoz called for a response from PR Week. In an upcoming episode, it was remarked that his quote would go down in history and included in textbooks under the heading of “how not to respond in a crisis.”
14. United Airlines responded to the incident with punitive actions
Mr. Munoz was not demoted from his official role as the Chief Executive Officer of United Airlines, but there was a curtailing of his control of the company as ordered by the board of directors. The UA board had previously determined to grant Mr. Munoz the role of chairman of the board, but this decision was reversed in light of the bad press that United Airlines had received over the incident as well as the public dissatisfaction with Oscar Munoz’s handling of the situation.
15. He received other accolades
Although there were some controversial issues that clouded the picture, Mr. Munoz has delivered amazing service in leadership up until the one event that brought about the criticism of his leadership in a crisis mode. His “Communicator of the Year” was still an award that was well-deserved up until the single mistake he made that cost him so dearly. In addition to this, he was named by Hispanics Business Magazine to the list of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics.
16. Munoz was called on the carpet by shareholders
When the April 9, 2017 incident with Dr. David Dao occurred, it stirred up a big response. He and four other passengers were forced from the flight to make room for United employees who were deadheading to another flight. All four had paid for their tickets and the other three left willingly when asked to surrender their seats for United employees, but Dr. Dao felt it was unfair and insisted on getting what he paid for. His resistance led to his arrest. When Munoz sided with the employees and confirmed that this was an established procedure, it caused a maelstrom of public outcries. United Airlines’ shares also declined after videos of the event were circulated. Although he later went on air and made a public apology offering to improve the performance of United, and especially in its customer relations, the damage had been done. He did extend a public apology to the customer who was forcibly removed as well to each and every customer who was on board the flight. Dr. Dao received injuries in the incident which didn’t help the situation.
17. Oscar Munoz is married and has a family
To move on to his personal life, Oscar Munoz has spent the majority of his adult life working in positions of increasing responsibility, but he has made time in his busy schedule for other personal aspects of his life. He had an active social life and met and married his wife Cathy. The couple has four children together and they make their home in the State of California.
18. He flies United and it isn’t always perfect
Oscar Munoz was taking a United Airlines flight to Chicago, Illinois. While the airplane was en-route to its destination, it was diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan. While this is an inconvenience for everyone on board, sometimes there are unavoidable situations that occur that are totally out of the hands of the airline and it usually happens when there is a safety concern for one or more persons on the flight, or on other flights. Instead of getting upset about it, Mr. Munoz made the best out of a potentially stressful situation. He discussed the incident and said that it actually turned out to be a time when people got to know one another better and they even pulled out bags of taffy, shared food and all worked together to create what he called “a wonderful event.
19. Confidence still remains high in his leadership
It’s important to note that although Oscar Munoz has received some tough criticism and some have even questioned his leadership ability, the board of directors along with analysts still believe in his tremendous potential. Granted, this was a huge mistake, but what many people do not stop to realize is that he’s a man that is under continual pressure to make improvements in the airline from shareholders, board members and all other stakeholders for that matter. He’s pulled in a lot of different directions, but this is just the nature of being in charge and it happens to most people in executive leadership positions at least some of the time. His records remain excellent with the exception of one big goof so it might be a good idea to give the guy a break for being human.
20 Oscar Munoz is a role model for young Hispanics
Although there are obstacles in this world that each of us must overcome, Oscar Munoz stands as a living example of how they can be overcome to achieve the goals you’ve set in life and the things that you’re passionate about. He has a track record of hard work, and with one exception, of making wise choices. He’s shown us how one glaring mistake can cause a lot of grief in an otherwise stellar career. Mr. Munoz has also shown us how hard work and dedication can help you to reach the highest levels in the business world. He’s a good example of what to do to get ahead, and what to be cautious about in a crisis. Sometimes it takes a failure to create a real learning moment for everyone involved.