“With United in a stronger position than ever, now is the right time to begin the process of passing the baton to a new leader,” Munoz said in a news release announcing the management change.
The changes will take effect in May following the company’s annual shareholders meeting.
Kirby, a former executive at American Airlines, joined United in 2016.
“I am honored to be named the next CEO of United and to succeed Oscar, whose leadership has been truly transformational for United Airlines,” Kirby said.
Kirby will take over at a time when the airline is expanding its network, adding more regional service at its hub at Dulles International Airport and refocusing its efforts on improving the customer experience. United has worked to rebuild its image following the infamous 2017 incident in which a passenger was forcibly dragged off an airplane for refusing to give up his seat.
Both men appeared before Congress to answer questions about the incident. United reached a confidential settlement with Kentucky physician David Dao, and Munoz pledged that the company would refocus on how it treats its customers.
As chief executive Munoz also has focused on making United a “greener” airline. United is the only U.S. airline to use biofuel as a part of its regular operations.
Munoz’s tenure won praise from key groups representing airline employees.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, whose members include those who fly for United tweeted that Munoz helped “rescue” United.
And the Air Line Pilots Association International whose members include United, had this to say: