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United Airlines pays $37 million to ex-CEO who quit amid a corruption investigation

Despite resigning amid a federal corruption probe, the former chief executive of United Airlines is receiving nearly $37 million in compensation, including a car, free flights and lifetime parking privileges at two major airports.

The payout benefits to former United Continental Holdings Inc. CEO Jeff Smisek were described in a filing by the airline to the Security and Exchange Commission last week.

According to the filings, Smisek is receiving a lump cash payment of nearly $5 million, which includes payments for unused vacation days. The rest of his "separation agreement" includes bonuses for meeting company performance goals, plus healthcare and life insurance payments.

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Smisek also receives "flight benefits," valued at about $82,000, plus lifetime parking at United Airlines hubs in Houston and Chicago. He can also keep his company car, valued at $58,700, the filing said.

Smisek and two other United employees stepped down in September in the face of a federal investigation into allegations that the airline was trading favors with the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. 

United was accused of operating a money-losing flight to the airport nearest the weekend home of the port authority’s chairman in exchange for improvements the carrier wanted at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Oscar Munoz, a railroad executive and head of United's audit committee, replaced Smisek as CEO. 

A United Airlines spokesperson could not be reached to comment on the filing.

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In other SEC filings, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. reported that its chief executive, Gary Kelly, received compensation of $5.9 million in 2015, more than half of which came in the form of stock awards.

Douglas Parker, the chairman and CEO of Fort Worth-based American Airlines Group Inc., was paid $11.4 million in 2015, most of which was stock awards, according to an SEC filing.

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