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The CEO of the airline prepares travelers for more disruptions




An airline executive is warning travelers that other airlines will not be able to handle all the flights they plan to operate this year.

And that will lead to more disruptions.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said airlines that operate as if this is still 2019, before the pandemic, are bound to struggle.

According to Kirby, the industry has a shortage of pilots and other workers, outdated technology and strain on the Federal Aviation Administration.

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The CEO of the airline prepares travelers for more disruptions

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Delta Air Lines Executive Vice President John Laughter testify before the Senate committee hearing. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS/Reuters Photos)

“The system simply cannot handle the volume today, much less the expected growth,” Kirby said. “There are a number of airlines that cannot fly their schedules. Customers pay the price.”

Kirby used the problems Southwest Airlines faced during the holiday without naming the airline by name.

Southwest had to scrub nearly 17,000 flights in late December after a winter storm disrupted its schedule and overwhelmed the airline’s crew scheduling system.

“What happened over the holidays was not a one-off event caused by the weather, and it was not just with one airline,” he said. Alaska, Spirit and Frontier also had double-digit percentages of canceled flights in late December.

A United flight at take off

A United Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane arrives at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. (istock / iStock)

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Kirby made the remarks during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts and reporters.

Kirby noted the investments his airline has made in technology, has more employees per flight than before the pandemic, has more spare planes and is not pushing the schedule too hard.

United Airlines

United Airlines aircraft are parked at the gates of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ ((AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) / AP Newsroom)

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However, these steps have raised United’s cost to fly one mile, excluding fuel, about 15% above 2019’s level.

After the stock market closed Tuesday, Chicago-based United reported a profit of $843 million for the fourth quarter and forecast that 2023 revenue would easily top Wall Street forecasts.

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Ticker Safety Last Change Change %
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 48.86 -2.34 -4.57%

Shares of United Airlines Holdings Group Inc. lost 4.6% on Wednesday and another 1% in extended trading.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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