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United Airlines: Regular Guy as President

CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- John Tague's appointment to be president of United (UAUA) shattered precedent because Tague is an itinerant airline guy.

Before he joined United in 2003, after two decades in the airline business, Tague, 47, worked for four little known airlines Midway, Air South, Vanguard and ATA. None existed before deregulation, and none survive today.

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While the airline industry is filled with similar career stories, few itinerants make it to the top at the five remaining, pre-deregulation carriers that collectively dominate the industry. United, in particular, has historically looked outside the industry for leadership: of the four CEOs it has employed since 1994, three came from the auto, timber and oil industries. The fourth was a career United employee. The president's job had been filled by CEO Glenn Tilton since 2002.

John Tague
United President John Tague

Tague provides a marked contrast. His father started out handling baggage for Pan Am in Alaska, advanced to run Hughes Air West, and later founded Midway. "I was weaned on airlines,'' Tague has said. He joined United in 2003 and held a variety of executive jobs before being named president in July.

"I sort of grew up on the other side of the tracks of the industry," said Tague, in an interview. "I looked wantingly at the kind of brand and the kind of company United was throughout the years. I suppose I always hoped and thought I might end up here. (But) I was actually ready to leave the industry when Glenn and I had our first conversation."

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