United Airlines has pushed back against a claim by Elon Musk that “Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion” (DEI) initiatives undermine aviation safety.
United Airlines: Pilot Hiring Standards Apply To All Candidates
In a tweet of alarm that has sparked outrage and discussion, Elon Musk suggested that the recent Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 incident might be linked to the carrier’s DEI goals:
People will die due to DEIhttps://t.co/RXCv6M4gGU
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2024
That prompted a flurry of media stories, including a Washington Examiner story entitled, “‘This is insane’: United CEO criticized for pushing racial and gender quotas.”
The Examiner quoted United CEO Scott Kirby over comments about United Aviate, United’s own aviation academy which is one of many sources from which it recruits pilots.
“We have committed that 50% of the classes will be women or people of color. Today, only 19% of our pilots are women or people of color.”
This is insane.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby proudly states they’re using DEI based racial and gender quotas to reduce the amount of white people in the air travel industry.pic.twitter.com/HsyT2Bwut9
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) January 15, 2024
This story and others like it have unreleased a torrent of criticism against United, which has responded by reminding critics that there are safety standards that everyone must meet, regardless of background:
United is proud to maintain the highest standards in our pilot hiring, training, and safety practices. Every aviator who joins our ranks must meet them. No exceptions.
Frankly, though I have great respect for Musk’s accomplishments, I found his statements grossly irresponsible. If anything, the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 issue reflects poorly on Boeing, for poor workmanship, or the C-Suite at Alaska, which pulled the MAX 9 off of ETOPS (overwater) service but left it in service despite warning lights in the flight deck. Blaming it on DEI strikes me as foolishness, which also undermines reasonable criticism of DEI and its idea of turning equality upside down to make up for past group discrimination.
Fundamentally, DEI in the context of pilot hiring is about apportioning a limited number of slots, not about lowering standards. Every pilot must pass the same rigorous set of medical and skills-based testing before being entrusted to fly an aircraft. We can debate whether DEI is necessary or should be employed…that is reasonable…but the idea that DEI undermines safety strikes me as absurd. Show me where a person of color or woman is held to a lower standard and then we can talk. Otherwise, such specious claims do little to advance us toward a day in which everyone can agree such programs are no longer needed.
United Airlines is pushing back against charges that its pilot qualifications are lower for “DEI” candidates. While DEI programs are controversial, the idea that such candidates are held to different standards is simply not true. The idea that DEI is to blame for the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 issue is absurd.
image: United Airlines