United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has issued an apology after he caught a private jet to escape his own carrier’s operational meltdown earlier this week while passengers, flight attendants and other staffers were forced to sleep on cots in airports.
Kirby was spotted chartering a private jet to escape the New York area, where United has faced days of mass cancellations and huge delays following severe weather, which has been compounded by FAA staffing shortages.
In a statement, Kirby said he now ‘regretted’ taking a private jet to escape the mayhem affecting Newark.
“Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home,” Kirby said.
“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,” the statement continued.
Kirby has blamed much of his airline’s woes this week on the FAA and had demanded the agency take action to prevent a similar meltdown during the rest of the busy summer season.
United’s own unions, however, said the airline was as much to blame as the FAA and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) accused United of ‘exacerbating’ delays caused by severe weather with its own staffing shortfalls.
Kirby reportedly caught the private jet from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey as he made his way to Denver on Wednesday. Photos shared on social media showed cots set up in crew break rooms for flight attendants to sleep on.
Sara Nelson, head of the AFA union and often described as the most powerful flight attendant in America, called the situation at United “unacceptable” and said that most of the issues affecting the carrier weren’t the fault of air traffic control as management had claimed.
While United has mostly recovered in the run-up to the 4th of July weekend, flight tracking services still reported more than 230 cancellations at United on Friday and 33% of flights were delayed.
“Watching our team firsthand with our customers at four different airports and during countless meetings this week, it’s clear to me they represent the best of United, and I regret that I have distracted from their professionalism,” Kirby’s statement continued.
“I promise to better demonstrate my respect for the dedication of our team members and the loyalty of our customers.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.