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After a year of operational and technical meltdowns at United Continental Holdings Inc., Chief Executive Jeff Smisek asserts that the worlds largest airline finally is on the mend.

Mr. Smisek, in an interview, called 2012 “awful” for United. The company lost money, was hit by a wave of canceled and delayed flights, and infuriated many customers by mishandling changes to its passenger reservation system and dramatically modifying its frequent-flier rules. Two reservations outages, last August and November, inconvenienced fliers and fueled questions about Uniteds ability to manage itself.