Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

United CEO Apologizes for Flying Private While United Planes Were Cancelled

8 months ago

On the same day, Wednesday, that United hub Newark Airport, JFK and LaGuardia saw more than 2,000 flight cancellations by a variety of carriers, CEO Scott Kirby chartered a private jet from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Denver, according to published reports.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby at Denver airport

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby at the Denver airport in May 2023. Source: United Airlines

It wasn’t a good look for the CEO and airline when United’s customers were dealing with days of delays, cancellations, missing luggage, and thwarted plans, and so Kirby’s apology came Friday.

“Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home,” Kirby said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize to our customers and our team members who have been working around-the-clock for several days – often through severe weather – to take care of our customers.”

United reportedly stated that Kirby, and not the United, paid for the flight from Teterboro, which is about 18 miles from Newark Airport.

Kirby vowed “to better demonstrate my respect for the dedication of our team members and the loyalty of our customers.”

In an internal memo to staff on Monday, Kirby laid some of the blame — in addition to the uncooperative weather the previous weekend — on FAA under-staffing, according to Airline Weekly

Kirby told staff the FAA “reduced the arrival rates by 40% and the departure rates by 75%” at Newark on Saturday, June 24. “That put everyone behind the eight ball when weather actually did hit on Sunday and was further compounded by FAA staffing shortages Sunday evening.”

“The FAA frankly failed us this weekend,” he added.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged to CNN on Wednesday that there were some staffing issues at Newark, but added “United Airlines has some internal issues they need to work through.”

Meanwhile, United has a travel waiver in place for extreme weather on the U.S. East Coast through today, Saturday, July 1.

Airlines

United Airlines Joins Delta Citing Air Traffic Control for Delays

2 years ago

More U.S. airlines are placing blame on the Federal Aviation Administration for the flight disruptions that are plaguing the industry this summer. On Tuesday, United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Roitman called out the regulator, saying: “There are just more flights scheduled industrywide than the ATC staffing system can handle (particularly in [New York] and [Florida]).”

“Until that is resolved, we expect the U.S. aviation system will remain challenged this summer and beyond,” Roitman continued. “We’re eager to do our part and will continue to stay in touch with the federal government on possible solutions that will positively impact customers.”

(Cliff Owen/The Associated Press)

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, in an employee town hall on June 29, made similar comments about air traffic control staffing, calling the organization the “most stressed” among aviation industry stakeholders. Those stakeholders also include airlines themselves, airports, and the Transportation Security Administration.

Roitman’s comments are the latest in a war of words between the Department of Transportation, which includes the FAA, and airlines over flight disruptions this summer. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has denied that air traffic control staffing is an issue and pointed the finger at airlines, while the industry has said that their issues are compounded by the air traffic control issues.

Either way, travelers can likely expect further travel delays and disruptions when they fly this summer.