United Airlines Scandal – ‘The Chairman’s Flight’

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As reported by Bloomberg, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating whether United employees improperly tried to influence Port Authority Chairman David Samson at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey by making what became known as ‘The Chairman’s Flight.” Allegedly, at the request of Samson, United re-instituted a flight that was unprofitable for them between Newark to Columbia, South Carolina because that was where Samson vacationed.

Reportedly, “United Airlines Inc. was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment for the airport in Newark when its chief executive dined with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in September 2011.”

United Airlines Scandal – ‘The Chairman’s Flight’

“Halfway through dinner at Novita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Port Authority Chairman David Samson surprised the group with a request of his own. He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.”

 “In a tone described by one observer as “playful, but not joking,” Samson asked: Could United revive that route? An awkward silence fell over the table.”

“Though the United CEO didn’t agree to the request at the dinner, according to the accounts of some who attended, the airline ultimately added the money-losing route that became known as “the chairman’s flight.” Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether its genesis crossed the line from legitimate bargaining into illegal activity.”

Bottom Line

There are certainly a lot of twists and turns in this story but, this certainly sounds a little scandalous at best to me especially since the flight was non-profitable for United.  The article by David Kocieniewski and David Voreacos says that, “Four days after Samson’s resignation, United ended the chairman’s flight.” What do you think?

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

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The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

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  1. I’m sure this sort of corruption happens all the time with companies…..it’s just they got caught with this one.

  2. It can easily be inferred from these facts that United felt that they were being extorted — hard to prove to a jury that Samson was attempting to extort them and not kidding around, so I wouldn’t expect an indictment on this unless bundled with other stuff. The Port Authority is a corrupt and incompetent organization which has no purpose except to deploy graft and award political favors. Why is nobody calling for the PANYNJ to be disbanded and its assets privatized so that NY/NJ can enjoy a first world, instead of a third world infrastructure?

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