United Airlines wants customers to pay for something they may find outrageous
If one airline has fared reasonably well from the pandemic, it’s United.
Somehow it avoids being the object of too much derision – aside from its fanciful claim that it’s very difficult to get Covid on a plane (so, you know, we’ll try to ‘take on as many passengers as possible).
These days, the airline has led the assault on vaccine holdouts by insisting that employees get vaccinated or lose their jobs, which sounds pretty noisy.
Yet with confidence comes some potential overcoming.
No, I’m not talking specifically about how all the airlines, the minute there is a global event, are begging the government for money. Lots and lots of billions.
This little story involves a perfectly innocent (sounding) comment made by United CEO Scott Kirby.
Appearing on SCS‘s Confront the nation, Kirby offered many thoughts on, well, the nation.
He offered many positive murmurs about the Biden administration. Example: “I think the administration is doing a really admirable job of trying to find all the levers to get the whole country vaccinated, and they really got better data and better science.”
Okay, you might be thinking, what does he want?
After all, the administration has not decreed that all airline passengers must be vaccinated. Neither do United Airlines, oddly enough. Even though, like all restaurants near me, it might require proof of a bite.
So why all the government praise? Could there be a reason?
Well, later in the interview, Kirby reflected on the new infrastructure passage. He is all for it. It would be nice for America to have better airports and better air traffic control, with the latter somehow operating on incredibly backward systems.
Still, Kirby surely wants something else. And, faced with the teasing question about climate change and what airlines need to do to combat it, he couldn’t help but expose himself.
“Well, especially for climate change initiatives, we really need government support to fund the investment,” he said. “If you look at solar and wind, 20 years ago they couldn’t compete with coal or natural gas, and today it’s cheaper. That’s because the government provided credits to give the certainty of investing in the industry. “
You know it happens, don’t you?
“And that’s what we need for things like sustainable aviation fuel,” he added.
Airlines are an interesting lot. They send out the collection plaque at every conceivable occasion, just as they are squeezing more and more people onto their planes and giving them the smallest restroom in the world.
All the while comfortably buying back airline shares at every conceivable opportunity.
But ask them to invest in the technological development of something important – some would say vital – and, oh no, the taxpayers, that is our customers, should pay for it.
This is not to minimize what is needed to create sustainable aviation fuel. And United are very generously committed to buying it.
I can imagine, however, that customers might get irritated – those Economy seats are very tight – that it is they, not the airlines, who should be coughing to the max, so that the world does not cough – even to death.
Of course, Kirby stands beside the flag: “This is really an opportunity in America to drive investment, to generate the next generation of great jobs that can be green, but also great jobs, great technology that can be green. we can export to all over the world. “
And of course, he must surely admire how the grants went a long way in making Elon Musk powerfully rich, if not always powerfully persuasive.
But if you’re going to appear in ads touting your commitment to being green (see below), how much should you really invest in that commitment? A little more than you are currently doing?
And how much should taxpayers fund the work for you? Especially since many will fear that airlines will simply slip a few extra green fees into the price of tickets.
These are not easy questions. These are a little nauseous questions.
United, along with other airlines, is a member of the so-called Clean Skies For Tomorrow coalition of stakeholders. But look at the rhetoric and it’s more about accelerating the “supply and use of SAF technologies”, not their scientific refinement.
But securing some sort of tomorrow should involve a little corporate sacrifice, too, right? Even in an industry not always known for it.
Then again, unlike Musk, at least Kirby wants us to stay here on Earth. It’s something.