United CEO Apologizes After Hopping on Private Jet

Scott Kirby did so as thousands of United customers were stranded
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
United CEO Apologizes After Hopping on Private Jet
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby testifies before a Senate panel in 2021.   (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP, File)

The CEO of United Airlines got a lesson in bad optics this week: As thousands of his company's customers were stranded at airports because of cancellations, Scott Kirby hopped on a private plane that flew him from New Jersey to Denver on Wednesday, reports CNN. In fact, the bulk of the airline's 3,000 cancellations this week were actually in New Jersey, specifically out of the airline's hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, per USA Today. "Taking a private jet was the wrong decision because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home," said Kirby in a statement after news of his flight emerged.

"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," he added. On the day he flew private, United had canceled about 759 flights. All airlines were hit by cancellations this week, mainly because of thunderstorms. United, though, has consistently had more daily cancellations through the week than its rivals, per the AP. Last weekend, Kirby blamed high cancellations on the FAA for not having enough air traffic controllers scheduled, saying "they frankly failed us" in an internal memo that was made public.

That prompted Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to fire back. "Look, United Airlines has some internal issues they need to work through," he told CNN. "They've really been struggling this week, even relative to other US airlines." He also tweeted a graph showing that United cancellations were higher than its rivals. "I want to be very clear, air traffic control issues are not the number one issue causing cancellations and delays," he said. "They're not even the number two issue. All the data, including industry's own data is very clear on that." (More United Airlines stories.)

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