Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley is a pilot and an aircraft mechanic and has worked in a bunch of other airline jobs. But that is surprisingly unusual in the top ranks of airline executives.
The new CEO of United, Oscar Muniz, was a United board member, so I guess technically you could call that airline experience, but Muniz was the president of CSX, one of the four great U.S. railroad systems.
There are some similarities between railroads and airlines, apart from that ground-vs.-air thing, and in fact a former Delta CEO came from the railroad industry, though he ran a smaller airline before that. Muniz takes over after the abrupt resignation of Jeff Smisek, who had been CEO of Continental Airlines before the merger.
Smisek wasn't an airline operations guy, either. Before advancing to CEO he was the general counsel of Continental and that was his first experience working for an airline, as an airline lawyer. And the CEO of United before Smisek was Glenn Tilton, who was an oil executive before United hired him.
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