New United CEO Scott Kirby Comes Out Firing

Image: PHOTO: United Boeing 777-300ER taking off. (photo via United Hub) (United Airlines)
Image: PHOTO: United Boeing 777-300ER taking off. (photo via United Hub) (United Airlines)
Rich Thomaselli
by Rich Thomaselli
Last updated: 10:22 AM ET, Sat May 30, 2020

United Airlines' Scott Kirby, who took over as CEO last week in the wake of Oscar Munoz's retirement, is wasting no time establishing his authority.

Kirby cut 13 high-level executives in a cash-saving move on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic has throttled the industry financially. A day earlier, he told an online investor conference that the airline absolutely would not declare bankruptcy, and that he thought flying was safe enough to not block the middle seats on planes from being sold.

Well, he did build a reputation as an open - some might say abrasive - executive while at American Airlines.

Kirby is eliminating 13 of United's 67 officer positions, all effective on Oct. 1. That's the day after the restrictions on firing employees runs out per the federal government's rules for airlines accepting billions of dollars in stimulus package grants and loans.

"While there are glimmers of good news in our July schedule - we expect to be down about 75% versus 90% right now - travel demand is still a very long way from where it was at the end of last year and the financial impact on our business remains severe," United said in a written statement as reported by CNBC.

The cuts are in response to the loss of nearly 90 percent of business for United and all airlines, as the demand for travel has dropped dramatically compared to last year and beyond.

But Kirby defiantly said during the investor conference a day before that he has no plans for the airline to go bankrupt.

"Zero percent, no chance," Kirby said. "It's worse for shareholders. It's worse for creditors. It's worse for employees. It's worse for every constituent that we have."

To that end, Kirby also said he won't sacrifice potential sales by blocking middle seats, as some airlines have done. As the blog The Points Guy noted, Kirby said the airline's cleaning process, air circulation and a requirement for passengers and crew to wear face masks make it a safe experience.

"Airplanes don't have social distancing - we're not going to be six feet apart," he said. "But an airplane environment is incredibly safe."

Topics From This Article to Explore

Rich Thomaselli

Rich Thomaselli

Associate Writer

Rich Thomaselli has written for TravelPulse since 2014 and has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. His work has...

Get To Know Us Better

Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

Subscribe For Free

Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me
Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

Subscribe For Free

Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me

Become A Travel Expert

Upcoming Event
Destination Leisure Travel ExpoOctober 11-12 2-5PM ETDestination Leisure Travel Expo
Upcoming Event
Culinary & Wellness Travel ExpoNovember 15-16 2-5PM ETCulinary & Wellness Travel Expo
Watch Now!
Porter Airlines WebinarSEP 28 2PM ETJoin Porter's webinar and learn how we are turning the idea of economy air travel "upside down".
Upcoming Event
Destination Leisure Travel ExpoOctober 11-12 2-5PM ETDestination Leisure Travel Expo
Upcoming Event
Culinary & Wellness Travel ExpoNovember 15-16 2-5PM ETCulinary & Wellness Travel Expo
Watch Now!
Porter Airlines WebinarSEP 28 2PM ETJoin Porter's webinar and learn how we are turning the idea of economy air travel "upside down".