Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

IDEAS: United to Launch Enhanced Digital Services for Personal Wheelchair Users

5 months ago

United Airlines has announced that it will launch a suite of new tools and policies at the end of 2023 that have been designed to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair.

Credit: United Airlines

The new accessibility initiative will include a digital filter on united.com that will allow travelers to identify aircraft that can accommodate different sized chairs, and a revised refund policy that will adapt flight fares in the event that customers are required to purchase a higher-fare ticket to accommodate a specific wheelchair size. 

“By offering customers an easy way to know if their personal wheelchair fits on a particular airplane, we can give them the peace of mind they deserve when they fly with us,” said Linda Jojo, executive vice president and chief customer officer for United. 

“Plus, collecting this information ahead of time ensures our team can handle these special items with proper care and attention.”

United will also begin a six-month pilot program later this year at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport to explore ways in which it can support customers in the event their wheelchair has been damaged or delayed while traveling, in collaboration with its Accessible Travel Advisory Board.

United and the U.S. Department of Transportation will deliver these initiatives through a mutual agreement to increase accessibility for customers who require the use of a wheelchair.


Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

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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.