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United Continental replaces CEO amid Port Authority probe

United Continental ousted CEO Jeff Smisek Tuesday amid a probe into improprieties at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Smisek, who was chairman, president and chief executive, will receive about $4.9 million as a separation payment.

United tapped Oscar Munoz to take over as CEO, effective immediately. In a letter to employees Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by CNBC, Munoz said he planned to meet with staff to figure out how the company could operate better and improve customer service.

The airline previously disclosed an internal probe related to a federal investigation related to former Port Authority Chairman David Samson.

"We ... don't expect it to effect operations," Brett Hart, executive vice president and general counsel at United, said in a conference call, but declined to comment further.

Jeff Smisek, Chairman, President and CEO, of United Airlines.
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Jeff Smisek, Chairman, President and CEO, of United Airlines.

Prosecutors have declined to confirm or deny that a Port Authority probe exists.

Smisek allegedly wanted millions of dollars in funding for several projects that were beneficial to United, according to a Bloomberg report that cited multiple sources.

United allegedly created a special flight between Newark, New Jersey, and an airport near Samson's home in South Carolina. The route was initiated during Samson's tenure as Port Authority chairman and was halted on April 1 of last year, three days after Samson's resignation, according to a report from NorthJersey.com. The Port Authority did not comment on the matter.

United shares fell as much as 3 percent in after-hours trading.