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United Airlines CEO tells customers string of incidents 'have sharpened our focus'

Aviation has been under the microscope this year with a series of high-profile incidents raising concerns about safety across the industry. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby sent a letter to customers Monday acknowledging recent issues at the airline.

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

“Our team is reviewing the details of each case to understand what happened and using those insights to inform our safety training and procedures across all employee groups. This is in addition to some changes that were already planned, including an extra day of in-person training for all pilots starting in May and a centralized training curriculum for our new-hire maintenance technicians,” Kirby’s statement continued.

Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, are working to improve oversight and renew the regulatory focus on aviation safety. 

Here’s a timeline of the most notable air travel incidents so far in 2024. 

  • Jan. 2: A Japan Airlines Airbus A350 collided with a Japanese Coast Guard plane, resulting in a massive fire. All the commercial airline passengers evacuated safely, but five people on the Coast Guard plane were killed. 

  • Jan. 5: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 lost a mid-cabin door plug shortly after taking off from Portland, Oregon. The FAA subsequently grounded the Max 9 fleet, affecting Alaska and United Airlines operations. Since the incident, Boeing’s manufacturing processes have faced heightened scrutiny, with regulators saying the company has a long way to go to improve safety. 

  • Jan. 15: A Virgin Atlantic flight was canceled after passengers reported seeing bolts missing from the Airbus A330’s wing before takeoff. 

  • Jan. 24: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 lost a tire in Atlanta just before taking off for Bogota, Colombia. Passengers and bags were offloaded and accommodated on another aircraft. 

  • Feb. 6: A United Airlines pilot reported stuck rudder pedals on a Boeing 737 Max 8 during a landing roll in Newark. 

  • Feb. 8: Two JetBlue planes clipped each other while making ground maneuvers at Boston Logan International Airport. 

  • Feb. 19: A United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Boston, operated by a Boeing 757, diverted to Denver after the wing is damaged during the flight. 

  • Feb. 21: A United Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles diverted to Chicago over onboard security issue.

  • Feb. 28: An American Airlines Boeing 777 flying from New York to Madrid diverted to Boston after a crack appears in the windshield. 

  • Feb. 29: An American Airlines Airbus A319 arrived in New York from Chicago with reports of smoke in the cabin.

  • March 4: A United Airlines Boeing 737-900 experienced an engine fire shortly after taking off and returning to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. No injuries were reported. 

  • March 8: Passengers were evacuated after their United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 rolled off a taxiway and onto the grass at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. No injuries were reported. 

  • March 11: Thirteen passengers on a LATAM Boeing 787 were hospitalized after the aircraft made a sharp maneuver while flying between Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. Boeing has since suggested that a malfunction with one of the cockpit seats may have contributed to the incident. 

  • March 13: An American Airlines Boeing 777 landed safely in Los Angeles after blowing a tire during takeoff in Dallas.

This article originally appeared on USA Today

Image source: Chip Somodevilla, POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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