Scott Kirby doesn’t need to be told about flying in economy class or getting frustrated about flight delays.
At a Senate hearing Thursday on airline policies, the United Airlines president said he flew to Washington on Sunday in seat 17E on a rival airline.
“In this case I flew on one of the competing airlines because I came from Phoenix, Ariz.,” he said.
American Airlines, Kirby’s previous employer, is the only carrier that flies nonstop between Phoenix and Washington’s Reagan National Airport.
Kirby said he typically flies about 70% in first class and 30% in economy on United.
“I tend to be all over,” he said. “I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, so we go wherever we can find seats.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said airlines would improve service if more executives sat in the back.
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“I have a theory that if we required all executives to fly on the planes in the back of the plane, the consumer experience would be much better,” she said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said passengers are also frustrated when flights are delayed and they are given no information. Why is it delayed? For how long?
“Honesty could be the best policy,” Capito said. “You know, in a lot of cases, they know.”
United is creating an app so that workers will have a device to better communicate with crews of specific planes, which he said would roll out later this year, Kirby said.
The confusion with a weather delay is that a dispatcher in Chicago might handle 20 or 30 flights, he said. The dispatcher might have trouble relaying details to gate agents about the conditions for each flight, he said.
“We’ve got to give them more direct information,” Kirby said.
Again, this isn’t new to Kirby. As he flew to Washington, his wife sat through four-hour rolling delays in Phoenix – with two small children – waiting for a flight to Dallas — where there were tornadoes. She became frustrated with the lack of information.
“I share that frustration,” Kirby said. “It is one of the things we need to improve.”
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