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 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.