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

12 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.

Uncategorized

Strikes to Disrupt French Rail and Air Traffic on Tuesday

1 year ago

Train and air services throughout France will be disrupted on Tuesday by a nationwide strike against pension reforms, French authorities said on Sunday.  

French rail operator SNCF said that it would operate only about half of its usual number of high-speed, domestic trains while one out of four trains on the Eurostar line to London would not operate. France’s civil aviation authority also said it expected delays and disruptions to hit airports although it would activate minimum services guarantees. The agency asked airlines to reduce flights out of Paris’ Orly Airport by 20 percent on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s nationwide strike is the third since the French government unveiled plans in January to raise the pension age by two years to 64. More than 1.2 million people took part in protests around France during the second round of strikes on January 31.

A high-speed train in France
Strikes are expected to disrupt French trains on Tuesday, February 7

Airlines

Iberia Tech Failure Causes Delays and Cancellations

1 year ago

Spain’s Iberia has been hit by a computer glitch, affecting its booking and boarding system.

“Due to a connectivity issue with our systems, today’s flights are experiencing delays,” it said on social media on Saturday. “We apologize to our customers and thank you for your understanding. Everyone at Iberia is working to solve it as soon as possible.”

The weekend disruption hit dozens of services across Spain and Europe, according to reports.

The software malfunction at Iberia, which is part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, is the latest in a series of computer blunders to strike the aviation industry.

The U.S. experienced a widespread shutdown of flights earlier this month, due to problems with the Federal Aviation Administration’s systems. It was forced to restore its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which alerts pilots of potential hazards.

Southwest Airlines has taken a considerable financial hit owing to issues assigning crew to flights during the Christmas vacation caused by outdated optimization technology. The airlines has pledged to spend $1 billion on technology upgrades.

Old technology is increasingly contributing to mass flight cancellations, as travel returns. In Spain, passenger numbers are also rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels. Passenger numbers through Spanish airport operator Aena’s 46 airports in December were at 98 percent of three years earlier.

Iberia reported that it had fixed the problem on Sunday. “Our systems have regained connectivity. Online billing and check-in are back to normal. We apologize to all customers for the inconvenience caused and appreciate your understanding,” it said.

Airlines

BREAKING: U.S. Flights Grounded Following FAA Computer Glitch

1 year ago

Flights across the U.S. have been grounded due to a computer glitch with the Federal Aviation Administration’s systems, according to reports.

The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which alerts pilots of potential hazards.

“The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions System,” it posted on Twitter earlier. “We are performing final validation checks and reloading the system now. Operations across the National Airspace System are affected. We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.”

A total of 21,464 flights are scheduled to depart airports in the U.S. today, according to data from Cirium, with nearly 2.9 million seats available on these departures.

American Airlines has the most departures from US airports today (4,819), followed by Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

The FAA in a later notice said it had ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to “allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”

Shortly before 9 a. m. it lifted the ground stop, posting on social media: “Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the U.S. following an overnight outage to the Notice to Air Missions system that provides safety info to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem.”

United Airlines told customers that they may continue to see some delays and cancellations as it works to restore its schedule, and that they should check its app or website.

The airline also activated a travel waiver for any customers who needs to change their plans, including offering refunds for customers who no longer want to travel.

The U.S. Travel Association said the “catastrophic system failure” caused 3,000 flight delays and several hundred cancellations across the country, and called for significant upgrades to be made.

“Americans deserve an end-to-end travel experience that is seamless and secure,” said president and CEO Geoff Freeman in a statement. “And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system. We call on federal policymakers to modernize our vital air travel infrastructure to ensure our systems are able to meet demand safely and efficiently.”

Airlines for America said it was working with the FAA and awaiting further information regarding when these issues will be resolved. It has urged travelers to download their airline’s app, visit the carrier’s website and ensure their contact information is accurate on travel records.

This breaking news story is being updated throughout the day

Tourism

Europe Urgently Needs to Fill 1.2 Million Travel and Tourism Job Vacancies

2 years ago

The European Union’s travel and tourism sector recovery is at risk unless 1.2 million jobs are filled, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council and European Travel Commission.

Vacancies are likely to remain unfilled during the busy summer period, with travel agencies predicted to be the worst hit with a 30 percent shortfall of workers.

Airlines and hotels are likely to suffer one in five unfilled vacancies, representing 21 percent and 22 percent staff shortage respectively.

“Europe showed one of the strongest recoveries in 2021, ahead of the global average. However, current shortages of labor can delay this trend and put additional pressure on an already embattled sector,” said Julia Simpson, council president and CEO, in a statement.

In 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, 1.7 million direct jobs were lost, they claimed. In 2021, when governments began to ease travel restrictions, the sector’s direct contribution to the European Union’s economy recovered by 30.4 percent and recovered 571,000 jobs.

This year, the council projects the sector’s recovery will continue to accelerate and almost reach pre-pandemic levels with an expected 32.9 percent increase in its direct contribution to the union’s economy.

The pair have identified six measures that governments and the private sector can implement to address the issue:

  1. Facilitate labour mobility within countries and across borders and strengthen collaboration at all levels, providing visas and work permits
  2. Enable flexible and remote working where feasible — particularly if travel restrictions still prevent workers from moving freely across borders
  3. Ensure decent work, provide social safety nets and highlight career growth opportunities — with work that is safe, fair, productive, and meaningful — to reinforce the attractiveness of the sector as a career choice and retain new talent
  4. Upskill and reskill talent and offer comprehensive training as well as create — to equip the workforce with new and improved skills
  5. Create and promote education and apprenticeships — with effective policies, and public-private collaboration, that support educational programs and apprentice-based training
  6. Adopt innovative technological and digital solutions to improve daily operations, as well as mobility and border security to ensure safe and seamless travel and an enhanced customer experience.

“Governments and the private sector need to come together to provide the best opportunities for people looking for the great career opportunities that the travel sector offers,” Simpson added.