United CEO Attempts to Reassure Customers After Spate of Safety Incidents

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After a string of recent incidents on Boeing jets, United CEO Scott Kirby said the carrier is committed to putting “safety first” in a memo to customers. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has sought to reassure travelers following a series of mishaps with its Boeing jets.

In a message sent to customers on Monday morning the chief executive said that safety is the carrier’s highest priority.

“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety,” Kirby said in the memo. “While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

United has experienced five safety incidents during the past month, including one on Friday where a Boeing 737-800 landed in Medford, Oregon with an external panel missing. 

Earlier in March, a United Boeing 737-900ER departing from Houston had to make an emergency landing just minutes after takeoff because one of its jet engines emitted flames. Another Houston flight, this time on a 737 Max, slid off the runway in a separate incident. 

Meanwhile, a United flight operated on a Boeing 777 lost a wheel during takeoff from San Francisco, and a flight departing from Sydney had to turn back due to a hydraulic leak. 

United Looks to Revise Safety Training

Kirby said United is reviewing the details of each incident and plans to use the insights from that review to inform its safety training and procedures across the company. 

The airline is also hosting an extra day of in-person training for all pilots in May and a centralized training curriculum for newly hired maintenance technicians. 

“I’m confident that we’ll learn the right lessons from these recent incidents and continue to run an operation that puts safety first and makes our employees and customers proud,” Kirby said. 

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny since a door plug suddenly blew off a Max 9 during an Alaska Airlines flight. In the aftermath of the January incident, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the plane maker will “earn trust back through demonstrated action and a commitment to total transparency.”

In the case of United, it appears that the incidents are all unrelated and could be attributed more to maintenance issues than to Boeing, given the age of the aircraft. 

But Boeing’s issues have also been causing problems for United. The carrier said it would have to pause pilot hiring due to delivery delays with the Max 10. The plane is yet to be certified for passenger service. 

Kirby said at an investor conference last week that the airline is looking to buy more jets from Boeing competitor Airbus. He added that United also told Boeing to stop making the Max 10 and to make the Max 9 until the Max 10 is certified. 

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