United Airlines Holding Inc.’s top executive said that a US plan under consideration to better reimburse stranded air passengers for delays and cancellations would threaten the long-standing safety “bedrock” of the industry.
United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said Tuesday that a plan being weighed by the Transportation Department to increase passenger payments beyond existing levels to pay for hotels, meals and re-booking after disruptions that fall under the airlines’ control could cost the industry “a god-awful amount of money.” But he couched his opposition around concerns for airline safety culture.
“We should never risk changing the safety culture in aviation,” Kirby said at the US Chamber of Commerce Global Aerospace Summit in Washington. “I do not want a pilot, I do not want a mechanic, thinking about the extra cost of delay when they’re thinking about a decision.”
While Kirby said he will be “adamantly vocal” in opposing such proposals, he did not explain why the industry would tolerate conditions that might lead workers to ignore safety issues out of fear for their jobs.
The Transportation Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The agency said in May that it would propose a regulation for the first-ever mandatory compensation when airlines cause a cancellation or significant delay, including a meal, overnight accommodations, transportation to and from a hotel and re-booking on another flight. There has been no indication of when such a proposal might be adopted.
The agency has created an online dashboard that displays current airline policies when they are responsible for disruptions.