June 20, 2024


United Airlines planes

United Airlines planes
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

United Airlines got a bit of good news this week. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told the carrier that it can have more freedom to design new routes and add new planes to its fleet. Bloomberg reports that “after a careful review and discussion about the proactive safety steps United has taken to date,” the company told employees in a memo that the restrictions had been lifted.

The FAA had ramped up scrutiny of United in March after a series of safety incidents that month. United had 16 such FAA-noted domestic incidents that month, the most of all airlines. Among the incidents were a March 6 flight where a plane veered off a runway in Tennessee, a March 7 flight where a tire fell off a plane shortly after takeoff, and a turbulent March 29 flight that saw seven people treated for injuries.

“Safety is at the core of everything we do at our airline to make United a success,” CEO Scott Kirby told investors and analysts on the company’s most recent earnings call in April. “As you’ve read, the FAA recently began evaluating several elements of our operation to ensure we’re doing all we can to drive safety compliance. We welcome the FAA’s engagement and we are embracing this review as an opportunity to take our safety culture standards to an even higher level.”

Executives at United are surely celebrating their bit of late cheer. The company said it lost $124 million last quarter after its Boeing 737 Max 9 planes were grounded following a January door plug blowout on one such plane operated by Alaska Airlines. Because of all the resulting scrutiny on Boeing, United is having to wait on new planes and is asking its pilots to take unpaid time off this month because of it.

This does not mean that the FAA review is over. Reuters reports that United acknowledged that it isn’t completely out of the woods, telling workers that it will continue to see a heightened FAA presence in its operations for the foreseeable future.



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