#NBCLatino20: Oscar Munoz — Soaring to the top of the airline industry

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By Carmen Sesin

Oscar Munoz leads one of world's biggest airlines — and he's also a proud Mexican-American from Southern California, the oldest of nine children and the family's first college graduate.

“My upbringing and the work ethic it generated helped me connect with people of all races and colors,” said the United Airlines CEO in one of many interviews where he has spoken about his background.

Before United, when he was chief financial officer of the transportation company CSX Corp., Munoz told Hispanic Executive that “our parents taught us to work hard and never forget our family roots, where we came from, and how much effort it took to get to where we are today.”

At the airline, he's made inclusion and diversity a key component of the company's mission.

United became the first airline to offer travelers nonbinary options when they booked their flights, such as "Mx" or U (undisclosed) instead of just "M" (male) or "F" (female).

Oscar Munoz.Illustration by Aaron Fernandez for NBC News

Munoz's position as CEO of a global airlines stands out, given that there are few Fortune 500 Latino CEOs and board members.

Yet, representation matters. Years ago, when he was an executive at CSX, Munoz gave a business presentation at a Mexican resort, and as he was walking through the pool area, an American couple thrust their wet towels at him and asked him to “take care of these,” Munoz told CFO Magazine in 2007.

“Everyone has images in their mind of what to expect from different groups,” he said.

Prior to his role in United, Munoz also served in executive positions at the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and AT&T.

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