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

Saudi Arabia’s National Carrier Signs Agreement to Buy 100 Lilium Air Taxis

1 year ago

Saudi Arabia’s national flag carrier Saudia announced on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement with German air taxi startup Lilium to purchase 100 jets.

With this purchase Saudia intends to launch new electric point-to-point connections as well as seamless feeder connections to Saudia’s hubs for business class guests, the airline said in a release.

Saudia also expects to support Lilium with the necessary regulatory approval processes in Saudi Arabia for certification of the Lilium jet.

With this Saudia will be the first airline in the Middle East and North Africa region to develop the all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) network in the region. The agreement will also help Lilium gain a foothold in the region.

The agreement with Lilium will contribute effectively to spurring sustainable tourism in Saudi using zero-emission aviation, said Ibrahim S Koshy, CEO of Saudia.

“Saudia intends to meet a growing demand for regional air mobility and offer guests a superior on-board experience. The potential for such an airborne transit network is limitless,” Koshy said.

While no timeline has been mentioned for the Saudia order, Lilium’s air taxi is scheduled to enter service in 2025, with production beginning as early as next year.

With orders worth approximately $2 billion, Lilium has already signed deals with Brazilian airline Azul, private jet company NetJets, as well as private jet company Globeair.

Airlines

Jet Startup Aero Raises $65 Million to Grow Its Network

2 years ago

Semi-private jet company Aero has raised $65 million in funding to expand its network, and to service demand on existing routes.

Currently it operates flights to Aspen, Los Cabos and Sun Valley from private terminals in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the U.S, as well as Ibiza, Mykonos, and Nice from London’s Farnborough Airport

The Series B round was co-led by Albacore Capital Group and returning investors Expa and Keyframe Capital, as well as new investment from Capital One Ventures (which last year invested in popular booking app Hopper.)

Unlike other jet services, Aero aims to stand out by focusing on connecting millennials with destinations that offer Instagram-worthy experiences. It owns and operates its aircraft, and sells individual seats on flights to leisure destinations around the world.

Aero CEO Uma Subramanian formerly worked on Airbus’ helicopter service Voom.Flights, which closed down in 2020.

The startup previously raised $20 million in Series A funding in March last year, and before that $16 million in 2019.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described Aero as a private jet company, and said it did not own or operate its own aircraft, and provides ticket resale for flights on registered air carriers on selected routes