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updated: 12/14/2012 7:47 AM

United Continental names CEO Smisek as chairman

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Associated Press

Jeff Smisek now has the controls at United Airlines.

Smisek, the president CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., will also become the company's chairman, effective Dec. 31. He is replacing Glenn Tilton.

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At the time of the 2010 merger of Continental Airlines and United Airlines, Smisek had been chairman and CEO of Continental, and Tilton of United. The merger agreement called for Smisek to become chairman of the combined company after two years.

Tilton, 64, was named chairman and CEO of United in 2002 when the airline was struggling to stay out of bankruptcy. That didn't work out, and Tilton led it through bankruptcy protection and to a recovery that culminated with its merger with Continental.

"Under Glenn's leadership, United became a strong competitor and sought-after partner," Smisek said in a prepared statement.

Smisek, 58, has been working to integrate the two airlines. A big milestone comes on Saturday, when pilots finish voting on a combined contract. Approval would lead the way to eventually combining flight crews that came from United and Continental. The combined airline is the biggest in the world by traffic.

Also Thursday, Chicago-based United named chief revenue officer Jim Compton an executive vice president, as well as vice chairman of its board of directors. Compton, who came from Continental, is adding the airline's operations to his responsibilities, and will oversee Chief Operations Officer Pete McDonald, who is also an executive vice president.

The airline also added to the responsibilities of Jeff Foland, who had previously overseen its technology. He's now executive vice president for marketing, technology, and strategy. Foland worked for United before the merger.

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