United Airlines CEO calls for compensation for flights ‘bad public policy’

United Airlines CEO calls for compensation for flights ‘bad public policy’

Scott Kirby, United Airlines' CEO, warns that it is bad public policy and raises safety concerns as President Biden and his administration push to require airlines to compensate passengers whose flights were delayed or canceled.

Two weeks after the Department of Transportation announced it would require airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities - including meals, hotels and rebooking flights - when airlines are deemed responsible for stranding passengers at an airport.

I don't want our employees to think about cost when they are making safety decisions. We have spent our entire careers in aircraft telling employees that they don t think about cost, only think about safety, Mr. Kirby said.

And this would just start to chip away at that structural foundation of safety in the industry, so I think it is really bad public policy, he said.

At the time of the Department of Transportation decision, President Biden said, I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines, especially after you, the American taxpayer, stepped up in 2020, in the last administration, in the early days of the pandemic to provide nearly $50 billion of assistance to keep the airline industry and its employees afloat. That's why our top priority has been to get American air travelers a better deal, he said, adding: You deserve more than just getting the price of your ticket refunded - you deserve to be fully compensated. We have built the safest industry in the world and the United States' safety system is by far the pinnacle of safety standards anywhere in the world. And we have done that by telling our employees that they don t ever think about cost. It is always about safety, safety, safety. It's in our DNA, he said. And I don t think that we should allow any sort of chipping away at that foundation of safety and introducing expense into employees decisions when they are deciding whether to send a flight or not, or cancel or delay a flight for a safety issue. Kirby also said United is running the best operation in the history of the club. And by far, air traffic control is the biggest issue in airports.

And we are agree with the FAA that said they are 3,000 controllers short, that we need to fix that, he said. We must solve the huge problem we're facing. And I think that should be our focus. The DOT said earlier this month that it has worked to enhance passengers' travel experiences for the past two years, adding that the 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department's Airline Customer Service Dashboard.

The proposed rulemaking would provide compensation for passengers who experience a controlling airline cancelation or significant delay such as a meal or meal voucher, overnight accommodations, ground transportation to and from a hotel, and rebooking for controllable delays or cancelations. Timely customer service during and after frequent flight irregularities would also be addressed.

The exact definition of a controlling cancellation or delay has not been provided by the DOT.

According to the DOT, similar policies requiring additional compensation for passengers already exist in Canada and the European Union, which cites a study that has found compensation for inconvenience has led to reduced flight delays in the EU.