The head of the world’s largest airline said weekend airport chaos stemmed from a “divisive” U.S. travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries, countering President Donald Trump’s effort to fault protesters and a Delta Air Lines Inc. computer failure.
“Crews, reservations agents and airport teams have witnessed turmoil in our airports that shows how divisive this order can be,” Doug Parker, chief executive officer of American Airlines Group Inc., said in a letter to employees. “It is the current law of the U.S., and so long as that is the case, we must comply.”
Parker’s counterpart at United Continental Holdings Inc., Oscar Munoz, said demonstrations in response to Trump’s order were “peaceful and did not affect our operations.” Neither he nor Parker mentioned the Delta disruption, which started two full days after Trump temporarily blocked visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. The edict also shut U.S. borders to refugees.
Concern that the U.S. restrictions would expand or spark retaliation by other nations prompted investors to dump airline stocks Monday, pushing a Standard & Poor’s index of five U.S. airlines to a decline of 2.9 percent. That was the biggest tumble in four months and amounted to a drop of $3.75 billion in market value. The index fell another 1.8 percent at 10:45 a.m. in New York on Tuesday.
In two messages on Twitter, Trump said “big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.” That was a reference to Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, who called the travel ban an “evil order.”
Delta canceled more than 100 flights Monday as it recovered from a computer breakdown the night before. The systems fault began about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday and was much shorter than a technology outage in August that forced the Atlanta-based carrier to cancel thousands of flights. Delta didn’t comment on Trump’s tweet about the service disruption.
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Here’s the full text of Parker’s letter to American Airlines Group employees: