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As United Airlines cancelled thousands of July 4th weekend flights, leaving passengers stranded in airports around the country for days, airline CEO Scott Kirby, with an inexplicable lack of judgement and no thought as to the optics or consequences, reportedly chartered a private jet from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Denver. He did this on Wednesday, the same day United cancelled 750 flights — one-quarter of the day’s schedule – not including flights on United Express. Kirby apologized Friday, saying “It was insensitive to our customers waiting to get home.” No kidding.

One wonders why Kirby didn’t think to check out United’s hub at Newark International (less than 18 miles from Teterboro, Airport), before he climbed aboard his jet. Likely he couldn’t have done anything, but having the CEO show up would have provided tremendous encouragement for his beleaguered staff, and while any passengers who recognised him might well have challenged him, he would surely have gained their respect for at least having the, shall we say, “nerve,” to face them.

In a statement issued by the airline, 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.”

Kirby promised, “to better demonstrate my respect for the dedication of our team members and the loyalty of our customers.”

United cancelled nearly 3,000 flights last week, by far the largest number at Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, which was hit by thunderstorms for much of the week.

Kirby initially claimed the cancelled flights left United planes and crews out of position, causing problems because of Sunday’s bad weather. He also blamed the disruptions on a shortage of Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers and in a note to employees complained, “that the FAA frankly failed us” by reducing the rate at which planes could arrive and depart the airport, where United is the dominant carrier.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, took to Twitter to counter that claim, noting that that airlines had recovered from the storms “with the exception of United.” He also included a graph that compared United’s cancellation rate with the rest of the industry.

Chicago-based United said it did not pay for the CEO’s flight on Wednesday. The airline declined to say whether Kirby frequently takes private planes.

United said it was giving travellers affected by the mass flight disruptions 30,000 MileagePlus miles.
Meanwhile, there were 15,567 flight delays in and out of the US on Saturday and Sunday and a total of 905 flights were cancelled. As of Monday morning over 100 flights were already cancelled and delays were at 1,007 and climbing, according to FlightAware.
More severe weather was anticipated for at least 15 states from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic to the Southeast on Monday following a day of storms. In addition to air traffic, the weather is impacting road traffic along the Interstate 95 corridor. The highly trafficked route is threatened of strong winds, hail and possibly a tornado.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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