United CEO Scott Kirby Takes a Private Jet Amid Thousands of Flight Cancellations

IAM141.org

Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, issued an apology on Friday for his decision to board a private aircraft amidst the flight cancellation chaos that left thousands of United’s passengers stranded around the nation earlier this week.

Kirby did not know that chartering a private jet because he could not depend on his airline would outrage stranded passengers. Once informed of the backlash, he issued a characteristically tone-deaf statement of remorse. “Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home,” Kirby said in response. “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.”

Kirby ended his statement with a vow to better embody his respect for his team’s dedication and the customers’ unwavering loyalty.

The private flight taken by Kirby was from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Denver on Wednesday. This was the same day United canceled a staggering 750 flights, accounting for one-fourth of the day’s entire schedule. This count doesn’t include the cancellations related to United Express flights. Over the week, United canceled approximately 3,000 flights, with the highest number reported at its hub, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, which has been wracked by chronic staffing issues. The lack of adequate staffing left the airline helpless in the face of typical if heavy, mid-summer thunderstorms.

Kirby blamed the disruption in Newark over the previous weekend to a shortage of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers. In an internal communication, he told employees the FAA had “let us down” by restricting the frequency of landings and departures at the airport, where United is a significant presence.

In response to Kirby’s accusations, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) were quick to call out the United CEO.

Buttigieg pointed out that every airline in the region experienced the same weather as United. But only Scott Kirby’s airline saw such mass cancellations and delays. “Look, United Airlines has some internal issues they need to work through,” the Transportation Secretary said in an interview with CNN. “They’ve really been struggling this week, even relative to other U.S. airlines,” he continued.

“I want to be very clear, air traffic control issues are not the number one issue causing cancellations and delays. They’re not even the number two issue. All the data, including industry’s own data is very clear on that,” he said.

Pilots at United echoed the criticisms of the Department of Transportation. “United’s travel disruptions this week stem from one source; Company senior management’s inadequate planning and insufficient investment in the airline infrastructure,” the Union said.

“Our pilots agree with our passengers that this lack of foresight and disregard of warning signs is unacceptable. It’s time for United leadership to change their thinking and invest in its labor, staff support, and facilities with updated contracts instead of ensuring our CEO has the highest salary.”

Pilots at United have been locked in seemingly endless contract negotiations at United. Talks are now in the fifth year as United management refuses to modernize the routing systems that organize flight schedules. According to airline pilots, this failure is resulting in too many pilots “timing out” during their schedules. (For safety reasons, pilots are legally barred from flying too many hours without rest breaks.) When pilots are required by law to stop flying, the airline often has to scramble to find new flight crews who can legally fly.

The high number of canceled flights led to the displacement of United’s planes and crews, severely impeding the airline’s functioning when adverse weather conditions struck on Sunday, as explained by Kirby. As the operational difficulties continued throughout the week, Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Secretary whose department includes the FAA, noted on Twitter that, barring United, other airlines had bounced back from the storm’s impact. To emphasize this point, he shared a bar graph that compared United’s cancellation rate with the rest of the industry.

There has been some improvement in United’s operations since the middle of the week. FlightAware, a flight tracking service, indicated that the percentage of canceled flights dropped from 26% on Wednesday to 18% on Thursday and further down to 8% by Friday evening. However, even on Friday, United was still leading all U.S. carriers in the number of canceled flights for the seventh consecutive day.

United has committed to rectifying its operations before the anticipated busy July 4 holiday weekend. On Thursday alone, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.7 million people, and a similar or larger crowd was expected on Friday.

The frustration of United passengers was made public via social media and interviews, with many talking about long queues at the airport and being forced to sleep in the terminals after flights were canceled. Unions representing United’s pilots and flight attendants joined in the criticism, accusing the management of inadequate planning, crew scheduling, and operating excessive flights.

The Chicago-based United clarified that it did not pay for Kirby’s private flight on Wednesday. Kirby, who has a net worth of at least $45 million, can more than cover the costs of private charter jets. The airline refused to comment whether Kirby often uses private planes for travel.

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United CEO Scott Kirby Takes a Private Jet Amid Thousands of Flight Cancellations

July 1, 2023

Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, issued an apology on Friday for his decision to board a private aircraft amidst the flight cancellation chaos that left thousands of United’s passengers stranded around the nation earlier this week.

Kirby did not know that chartering a private jet because he could not depend on his airline would outrage stranded passengers. Once informed of the backlash, he issued a characteristically tone-deaf statement of remorse. “Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home,” Kirby said in response. “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.”

Kirby ended his statement with a vow to better embody his respect for his team’s dedication and the customers’ unwavering loyalty.

The private flight taken by Kirby was from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Denver on Wednesday. This was the same day United canceled a staggering 750 flights, accounting for one-fourth of the day’s entire schedule. This count doesn’t include the cancellations related to United Express flights. Over the week, United canceled approximately 3,000 flights, with the highest number reported at its hub, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, which has been wracked by chronic staffing issues. The lack of adequate staffing left the airline helpless in the face of typical if heavy, mid-summer thunderstorms.

Kirby blamed the disruption in Newark over the previous weekend to a shortage of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers. In an internal communication, he told employees the FAA had “let us down” by restricting the frequency of landings and departures at the airport, where United is a significant presence.

In response to Kirby’s accusations, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) were quick to call out the United CEO.

Buttigieg pointed out that every airline in the region experienced the same weather as United. But only Scott Kirby’s airline saw such mass cancellations and delays. “Look, United Airlines has some internal issues they need to work through,” the Transportation Secretary said in an interview with CNN. “They’ve really been struggling this week, even relative to other U.S. airlines,” he continued.

“I want to be very clear, air traffic control issues are not the number one issue causing cancellations and delays. They’re not even the number two issue. All the data, including industry’s own data is very clear on that,” he said.

Pilots at United echoed the criticisms of the Department of Transportation. “United’s travel disruptions this week stem from one source; Company senior management’s inadequate planning and insufficient investment in the airline infrastructure,” the Union said.

“Our pilots agree with our passengers that this lack of foresight and disregard of warning signs is unacceptable. It’s time for United leadership to change their thinking and invest in its labor, staff support, and facilities with updated contracts instead of ensuring our CEO has the highest salary.”

Pilots at United have been locked in seemingly endless contract negotiations at United. Talks are now in the fifth year as United management refuses to modernize the routing systems that organize flight schedules. According to airline pilots, this failure is resulting in too many pilots “timing out” during their schedules. (For safety reasons, pilots are legally barred from flying too many hours without rest breaks.) When pilots are required by law to stop flying, the airline often has to scramble to find new flight crews who can legally fly.

The high number of canceled flights led to the displacement of United’s planes and crews, severely impeding the airline’s functioning when adverse weather conditions struck on Sunday, as explained by Kirby. As the operational difficulties continued throughout the week, Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Secretary whose department includes the FAA, noted on Twitter that, barring United, other airlines had bounced back from the storm’s impact. To emphasize this point, he shared a bar graph that compared United’s cancellation rate with the rest of the industry.

There has been some improvement in United’s operations since the middle of the week. FlightAware, a flight tracking service, indicated that the percentage of canceled flights dropped from 26% on Wednesday to 18% on Thursday and further down to 8% by Friday evening. However, even on Friday, United was still leading all U.S. carriers in the number of canceled flights for the seventh consecutive day.

United has committed to rectifying its operations before the anticipated busy July 4 holiday weekend. On Thursday alone, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.7 million people, and a similar or larger crowd was expected on Friday.

The frustration of United passengers was made public via social media and interviews, with many talking about long queues at the airport and being forced to sleep in the terminals after flights were canceled. Unions representing United’s pilots and flight attendants joined in the criticism, accusing the management of inadequate planning, crew scheduling, and operating excessive flights.

The Chicago-based United clarified that it did not pay for Kirby’s private flight on Wednesday. Kirby, who has a net worth of at least $45 million, can more than cover the costs of private charter jets. The airline refused to comment whether Kirby often uses private planes for travel.

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