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United board names first woman chair

The board of United Continental has named Jane Garvey its new non-executive chairperson, following the departure of Robert Milton.

Garvey is the first female chair of United Continental's board, and the only female chair among the nine large publicly-listed US airlines.

The move comes on the heels of several high-profile female executive and board appointments at Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, moves that are notable due to the dominance of male executives in the US airline industry.

Garvey takes over the board of United Continental, which is the parent of United Airlines, at a time of management upheaval for the carrier. Chief financial officer Andrew Levy left unexpectedly to pursue what he called "several exciting opportunities" earlier in May, and Milton stepped down as chair after just two years in the role.

United has faced a number of public crises over the past two years, the most prominent being the forced removal of a passenger from a United Express flight in April 2017 that brought about changes in how the airline overbooks flights and treats passengers.

"Jane steps into this critical role bringing with her decades of experience as both a leader and pioneer in our industry," says Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United, in a statement. “It’s been my great privilege to call Jane not only a colleague, but also a friend, and I look forward to continuing to work with her and our fellow directors to build the best airline for our customers, employees and everyone we serve.”

Garvey, who is also North America chair of private infrastructure investor Meridiam, has served on the board of United since 2009.

She was previously US Federal Aviation Administrator from 1997 to 2002, including during the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks that temporarily shut US airspace and resulted in an overhaul of aviation security.

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