Attarian takes top flight operations job at United

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Howard Attarian has succeeded Fred Abbott as senior vice-president of flight operations at United Airlines, following Abbott's retirement.

Abbott retired on 30 April after about three years in the role. He was vice-president of flight operations at Continental Airlines - a comparable position - prior to the two carriers' merger in 2010.

Attarian was vice-president of flight operations at United prior to the merger. He had held the position since September 2008.

"Fred's impact on safety, training and promoting our culture within flight ops [operations] has been significant," says Pete McDonald, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Chicago-based United, in an employee newsletter on 2 May. "Just as we will all miss Fred, we're equally excited to welcome Howard to his new role. Howard is a very talented leader who has already done great work in our Flight Ops group, and we're confident he is the right person to lead this division into the future."

Industry followers have speculated that the operational difficulties faced by United in 2012 were at least partly due to clashes between legacy Continental and legacy United executives within the flight operations department.

The airline's on-time performance dipped to nearly 60% in July and August 2012, which was officially due to a combination of factors including too few spare aircraft.

"United's operational reliability is back on track," said Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and chief executive of United, during an earnings call on 25 April. "Our first quarter reliability was the best in a decade, with our mainline on-time performance, which includes both domestic and international flights, averaging 81%."

Attarian spent 23 years as a pilot and in flight operations at Northwest Airlines before joining United. He is rated to fly the Boeing 757, 767 and 777 aircraft.