United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby says masks incidents and disturbances in general on his airline are way down and gives all credit to flight attendants. Is the answer that simple or is something else going on?
United Airlines CEO Credits Flight Attendants For Lack Of Mask Incidents Onboard
While making his media rounds to discuss United’s new vaccine. mandate, Kirby appeared on the PBS News Hour. He was asked by William Brangham:
“[W]e have all seen these examples of airport and airline staff being harassed and assaulted at times. From a management perspective, do you feel that you’re doing enough to protect your people from this chaotic, dangerous behavior out there?”
Kirby’s answer surprised me:
Well, I have seen a lot of the news reports.
But I would say, at United Airlines, our mask incidents are down 50 percent compared to the start of the year. Our in-flight incidents are lower than they were in the pre-COVID era. And that’s because we have worked closely with our flight attendants. We have an amazing group.
The union has been supportive. Really worked on the training and given them the tools and the standard operating procedures to help de-escalate situations and avoid having things escalate.
So, at United Airlines, like, we don’t have zero issues, but we don’t have anything unusual happening at United. It’s really a testament to the professionalism of our flight attendants. We’re in a different situation, I think, than what you see a lot of the reporting at some other airlines.
- Mask incidents are down 50% at United from January
- Overall in-flight incidents are occurring at a lower rate than the pre-pandemic era
That last point is particularly surprising, considering figures like this from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration:
Kirby credits flight attendants, but is the implication therefore that flight attendants are partially to blame for a string of incidents apparently happening on other airlines?
United’s so-called de-escalation process requires a pair of warnings before a passenger’s refusal to wear a mask may result in a ban. In my own travels on United, some flight attendants are much more vigilant than others in enforcing mask usage onboard.
Passengers who fail to comply will be left alone following the two warnings. There will be no threat of diversions or arrests upon arrival. Instead, flight attendants will file an incident report and then United may or may not move to ban that passenger for an unspecified limit of time.
It also merits mentioning that United offers alcohol for purchase on all fights over one hour. American and Southwest, which have reported more incidents of poor behavior onboard, do not offer alcohol for sale, citing flight attendant safety.
So what’s the “secret sauce” on United? Perhaps it is a lack of aggressiveness. The ironic result? Less of a need to be aggressive. Or maybe it’s just the clientele.
Kirby credits the relative lack of incidents on United to his carriers’ flight attendants and the de-escalation procedures in place. I do find it quite interesting that incidents at United are below pre-pandemic level. If you listen to Sara Nelson, head of the union representing United flight attendants, you would not be faulted for thinking the sky is literally falling…