United Continental's Jim Olson to leave airline

Olson is exiting the company after a year that included the David Dao incident and other crises.

CHICAGO: United Continental Holdings’ Jim Olson is stepping down after two years as the airline’s communications leader.

He is leaving the role to "pursue professional and personal aspirations outside the company," said Megan McCarthy, MD of external communications at United.

Olson will depart the company on January 8, according to Bloomberg.

Olson joined United as SVP of corporate communications in February 2016 after a stint as VP of global corporate communications at Starbucks, relocating from Seattle to Chicago for the role. He previously worked at U.S. Airways, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, and Yahoo.

Olson’s tenure at United has included contract negotiations with unions, a shareholder activist battle, and a social media crisis over its customer dress code known as #LeggingsGate. In April, the airline received significant blowback on social media after it violently ejected passenger David Dao from a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky.

Two months after the Dao incident, the carrier upped Brett Hart to chief administrative officer and general counsel, retaining his title of EVP, with oversight of global communications as well as legal, corporate real estate, security, community, and government and regulatory affairs. United hired Frank Benenati, former director of public affairs at the EPA, as director of corporate communications that month.

United Continental beat analyst expectations in the third quarter with net income of $637 million, flat compared with a year prior, according to MarketWatch.

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