Travelers are not the only ones frustrated by the wave of flight cancellations that have disrupted travel plans across the Northeast. An airline executive has also grumbled about the disruptions.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby slammed the Federal Aviation Agency’s decision to cancel thousands of flights last weekend because of severe weather. The cancellations and delays have affected more than 150,000 United Airlines customers, the company said.
In an email to employees sent Monday, Kirby says United Airlines “failed” by ordering the flight cancellation at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“I am disappointed that the FAA apparently failed this weekend,” Kirby said in an email. “You know, the kind of weather that we’ve seen at EWR, the FAA has historically been able to manage without having a severe impact on our operations and customers.”
In response to Kirby’s criticism, the FAA said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch, “We will always cooperate with anyone who actively wants to join us in solving a problem.”
More than 715 flights into and out of the U.S. had been canceled as of Tuesday, according to data from flight tracker FlightAware. shows. Of those flights, more than 270 were flying to or from Newark Liberty International Airport, United Airlines’ New York hub. Center.
The FAA oversees air traffic in the United States, giving it influence over flight schedules. But in recent months, the company hasDue to lack of staff, those duties have to be fulfilled.
However, some passengers at the Newark airport took to social media to complain about the delays — and many blamed United Airlines, not the FAA, saying the airline didn’t have enough staff to help stranded customers. United did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Come @United Airlines, 9 hours and counting in line for customer service at Newark airport following my flight cancellation just before 10 last night. I think you need more staff to sort through this backlog…” one passenger wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
Another passenger tweeted, “No hotel, no compensation, no apology; join a queue of +/-1000 people to get a voucher for the next flight or some other bogus booking and wait for that to be canceled too!?”
Lack of air traffic controller
In March, the FAA released Notice An air traffic controller shortage at its New York facility could disrupt summer travel, it warns. According to the announcement, the agency has met only 54% of its staffing goal for certified professional controllers in that space — well below the national average. According to the FAA, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport are served by workers at this facility.
Kirby told his staff to work with the FAA and the Department of Transportation to prevent a similar situation from disrupting travel this summer, according to the email. He emphasized, however, that the agency has the responsibility to address the FAA’s problems.
“It is not the fault of the current FAA leadership that they are in this serious understaffing situation — it has been building for a long time before they were in charge,” Kirby wrote. “But it is now incumbent on them to lead and take action to reduce the impact.”