The parent company of United Airlines will pay $2.4 million to settle civil charges by securities regulators over flights that were started to help an official who oversaw one of the airline’s hub airports.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday that shareholders of United Continental Holdings Inc. paid for a money-losing flight that the airline approved only after disregarding its usual process for evaluating routes.

United operated the route briefly between its hub in Newark, New Jersey, and Columbia, South Carolina. David Samson, who was then the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, lobbied for the flight so he could travel to a home in South Carolina.

The SEC said that Continental Airlines had dropped the route before its 2010 merger with United, and another analysis by United showed it would still lose money. But the SEC says that the airline approved the flights anyway to win port authority approval of a hangar project at the Newark airport.

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Photo Credit: For 18 months, until April 2014, United operated a controversial flight from Newark (above) to Columbia, South Carolina to appease a powerful political appointee. Julio Cortez / Associated Press