By Anirudh Saligrama
(Reuters) – United Airlines plans to make changes in flight operations to avoid weather-related disruptions ahead of the Fourth of July holiday travel, Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said on Saturday.
Recent flight disruptions have raised new concerns about whether airlines are ready to handle the summer travel boom during the first Fourth of July holiday in which U.S. air traffic is likely to exceed pre-COVID levels.
“While we work to control the things that are within our control, we must also do a better job of planning against the things that are outside our control so that we can be in a position to recover more quickly,” Kirby said in a note.
Last month, United canceled about 19% of its scheduled flights as thunderstorms and equipment failures at a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility in Washington caused significant delays for air travelers on the U.S. East Coast.
About 26,000 flights were delayed by all airlines during a weekend in June after thunderstorms ripped through parts of the U.S., according to data from flight monitoring service FlightAware. Kirby last week blamed the FAA for recent flight cancellations.
United Airlines is also working with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to get more gates, Kirby said, adding that the company would have to further change or reduce its schedule give itself more spare gates and buffer, particularly during storm season.
“Airlines can plan for things like hurricanes, sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms, but United has never seen an extended limited operating environment like the one we saw this past week at Newark,” Kirby said in a note to employees.
(Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio)