United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby publicly complained about conditions at Newark Liberty airport – specifically laying blame on the Federal Aviation Administration as well as Spirit Airlines and JetBlue for causing delays.
Kirby, speaking on an earnings call Thursday morning, said the FAA allowing the airline to overbook is the problem, calling it outrageous – and the reason that Newark annually is the most-delayed airport in the country.
The airport is supposed to be limited to 79 flights per hour, per FAA rules. Kirby, however, said that limit is not enforced.
“It’s unheard of behavior for me for the FAA to just let people brazenly break the rules,” he said. “The two biggest offenders are Spirit Airlines and JetBlue.”
Kirby said everyone loses when this happens.
“It’s terrible for consumers – what is being allowed to happen at Newark,” he said. “It’s simply time for the FAA to enforce the rules.”
United Chief Operating Officer Jon Roitman offered a similar complaint on April 12.
Here are Kirby’s comments from the call Thursday, when he responded to a reporter’s question about the airport. (They are edited slightly for clarity and cohesion.)
“It’s outrageous what’s being allowed to happen at Newark,” he said. “The airport has the theoretical capacity to fly 79 operations per hour. That’s what the FAA says. That’s in perfect conditions, which are rare at Newark. It was the most-delayed airport in the country in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. And the FAA has rules that limit the airport to 79 operations per hour, and they are letting airlines violate those rules.
“It’s unheard of behavior for the FAA to just let people brazenly break the rules. The two biggest offenders are Spirit Airlines and JetBlue. Spirit Airlines and JetBlue [customers] are paying the biggest price. It’s a disaster for their customers because they’re flying more flights [than] the airport can handle. They’ve canceled over 20% of their flights, 1 in 5 flights canceled – canceled, not delayed – canceled at Newark so far this month.
“It’s awful for their employees. It’s awful for their customers. Unfortunately, our employees and our customers are collateral damage to that. It is time for the FAA to enforce their own rules. It’s terrible for consumers – what is being allowed to happen at Newark. It’s simply time for the FAA to enforce the rules.”