On Friday, CEO of United Airlines Scott Kirby issued an apology for chartering a private jet at the height of the nationwide weather-related travel disruptions in the beginning of this week which witnessed thousands of flights delayed and canceled. Travellers across the country were left confused and exasperated as more than 35,000 flights delayed and 7000 cancellations have plagued the primary airline. On Wednesday, Kirby took a private jet from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Denver, Colorado, according to a United spokesperson who confirmed it to CBS News. A flight tracking website FlightAware revealed numbers that more than 7,400 U.S. flights were delayed on Wednesday, and another 1,200 U.S. flights were canceled.
With the fast approaching fourth of July holiday, With the fast approaching fourth of July holiday, The Federal Aviation administration has forecasted Thursday to be the busiest day for scheduled flights.
In a statement provided to media groups on Friday evening, Kirby said “it was the wrong decision” to charter the jet “ because it was insensitive to our customers who were waiting to get home.” He further went on to “sincerely apologise to our customers and our team members Who have been working around the clock for several days – often through weather – to take care of our customers.”
The apology came just days after Kirby criticised the Federal aviation administration‘s decision to terminate hundreds of lives in the last week and is due to harsh weather conditions. On Monday, in an email to employees, Kirby said the FAA “failed” United by particularly ordering flight cancellations and delays at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey due to difficult weather conditions that it “has historically been able to manage.”
He said, “I’m … frustrated that the FAA frankly failed us this weekend,” Kirby said in the email. “As you know, the weather we saw in EWR is something that the FAA has historically been able to manage without a severe impact on our operation and customers.”
One person at Newark reported on Wednesday that Terminal C was “absolutely insane” with a nine-hour line at the help desk.
“Come on @UnitedAirlines, 9 hours and counting in a queue for Customer Service at Newark Airport following cancellation of my flight just before 10pm yesterday. I think you need more staff to help sort this backlog …” one traveler wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning.”
The Federal aviation administration –Which is responsible for air traffic in the US replied to Kirby’s criticisms by telling media groups in an email that it “Will always collaborate with anyone seriously willing to join us to solve a problem.”
Air travel is still strained as the company goes into 4th of July holiday weekend. Until Friday night, more than 400 US flights were cancelled and 6700 were delayed –according to FlightAware.
In the last few months, the FAA has struggled to fully discharge its duties because of staff shortages. In March, the FAA issued a notice warning that an air traffic controller shortage at its New York facility could affect summer travel. As per that notice, the agency had reached just 54 per cent of its staffing goal for certified professional controllers at that location — far below the national average. Workers at the facility provide air traffic services for John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, according to the FAA.
Kirby informed his employees he will work in correspondence with the FAA and the Department of Transportation to prevent a similar situation from hindering travel this summer, as per the email. Although, he stressed that the responsibility to remedy the FAA’s issues lies with the agency itself.
“It’s not the fault of the current FAA leadership that they are in this seriously understaffed position — it’s been building up for a long time before they were in charge,” Kirby wrote. “But, it is incumbent on them now to lead and take action to minimize the impact.”