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AirKarp

Oscar Munoz shows a lot of heart

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“I’m very excited to get back into this conversation,” Munoz said.

Fifteen days after undergoing a heart transplant, Oscar Munoz was in the captain’s seat during United Airlines’ full-year 2015 earnings conference call with analysts and reporters. The United president and CEO, who had been on medical leave since suffering a heart attack in October, opened the Jan. 21 call by saying he was “darned glad to be here,” felt “great,” is participating in meetings and, he emphasized, is grateful for the outpouring of support he’s received from United employees and the public more generally.

Munoz will “certainly” be back on the job full time by the end of the first quarter, he said.

Munoz’s participation in the call was not a token one. As United’s executives and analysts were going back and forth at one point, Munoz interjected, “If you don’t mind if I can just weigh in on that subject…” And then he proceeded to do just that. “I’m very excited to get back into this conversation,” he said at another point in the call.

I don’t know how well United—a company that has had well-documented problems in terms of finances, customer service, operations and labor relations since the 2010 merger with Continental Airlines—will do under Munoz’s leadership. He was only on the job for seven weeks before going on leave.

But I do know that he’s already doing a great deal to provide hope for the millions of people who are dealing with, or have dealt with, serious cardiac issues. He’s also bringing much-deserved attention to the doctors, nurses and health care professionals who work tirelessly treating patients suffering from various heart conditions.

As someone who has personally watched close family members go through recovery from serious heart surgery—and have been in awe of the doctors and nurses who heroically spend their days in hospital cardiac units—I truly appreciate Munoz’s public example of optimistically, graciously and energetically recovering from a cardiac trauma.

Now if I think Munoz makes the wrong call on an executive decision, I won’t hesitate to point it out in this space. Somehow I don’t think he’d want it any other way. As Munoz said yesterday, “It’s a competitive industry and I’m a competitive guy.”

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