United Airlines CEO takes a private jet amid flight woes, apologises

United Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott Kirby apologised for hopping on a private plane to get out of New York while thousands of the airline’s passengers were stranded as it cancelled several flights. According to a report by the news agency Associated Press on Saturday (July 1), Kirby took the private flight from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Denver on Wednesday, when United Airlines cancelled 750 flights. 

In a statement issued by the airline, Kirby said that taking a private jet was a wrong decision because it was insensitive to the customers who were waiting to go back home. “I sincerely apologise 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 added. 

He further promised to better demonstrate his respect for the dedication of the airline’s team members and the loyalty of its customers. 

Nearly 3,000 United flights cancelled this week

The Associated Press report on Saturday said that United Airlines cancelled nearly 3,000 flights this week, with the largest number at its Newark Liberty International Airport hub in New Jersey, which was hit by thunderstorms. 

Scott Kirby blamed the disruptions at the Newark airport on a shortage of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers. In a note to employees, the CEO said that the FAA “frankly failed us” by reducing the rate at which planes could arrive and depart the airport. 

Kirby said that the cancelled flights left United planes and crews out of position, hobbling the airline when bad weather hit on Sunday. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, tweeted that airlines recovered from the storm except for United Airlines. Buttigieg shared a bar graph that compared United’s cancellation rate with the rest of the industry.

According to FlightAware, the percentage of cancelled flights (of United Airlines) fell from 26 per cent on Wednesday to 18 per cent Thursday and eight per cent through Friday evening. 

(With inputs from agencies)


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