Airline CEO Blames Chaos on U.S. Ban, Not Protests as Trump Said

  • American’s Parker says turmoil shows divisiveness of order
  • Protests didn’t affect United’s operations, its CEO says

Were Airlines Blindsided By Trump Travel Ban?

The head of the world’s largest airline said weekend airport chaos stemmed from a “divisive” U.S. travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries -- a view that runs counter to President Donald Trump’s effort to blame protesters and a Delta Air Lines Inc. computer failure.

“Crews, reservations agents and airport teams have witnessed turmoil in our airports that shows how divisive this order can be,” Doug Parker, chief executive officer of American Airlines Group Inc., said in a letter to employees. “It is the current law of the U.S., and so long as that is the case, we must comply.”

Parker’s counterpart at United Continental Holdings Inc., Oscar Munoz, said demonstrations in response to Trump’s order were “peaceful and did not affect our operations.” Neither he nor Parker mentioned the Delta disruption, which started two full days after Trump temporarily blocked visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. The edict also shut U.S. borders to refugees.

Trump’s edict erased $3.75 billion in market value from five major U.S. carriers Monday, as concern that the U.S. restrictions would expand or spark retaliation by other nations pushed a Standard & Poor’s airline index to the biggest tumble in four months. After that drop of 2.9 percent, the index extended declines Tuesday with a slide of 1.9 percent at 12:58 p.m. in New York.

Two Tweets

In two Twitter messages Monday, Trump said “big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.” That was a reference to Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, who called the travel ban an “evil order.”

Delta canceled more than 100 flights that day as it recovered from a computer breakdown the night before. The systems fault began about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Delta didn’t comment on Trump’s tweet about the service disruption.

Administration officials grappled with fallout from Trump’s order over the weekend, clarifying on Sunday that it didn’t apply to holders of so-called green cards and moving to mitigate the effect on Iraqis who have worked with the U.S. Chief executives at many of nation’s largest companies warned of business disruptions.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, asked the U.S. government to clarify aspects of Trump’s executive order. The trade group also urged all governments to provide advance coordination of changes in border-entry requirements for passengers.

Additional Burdens

“The EO was issued without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travelers,” IATA said in a statement Monday. “It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance.”

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA called on the Department of Homeland Security to exempt attendants from the executive order. Without that, employees from the affected countries could be barred from re-entering the U.S. after working on international flights.

“Despite the enhanced government security clearance flight attendants are required to obtain before working for a U.S. airline, this arbitrary and sudden EO will cause the loss of good, well-paying American jobs,” the union said in a letter to the agency. “The implementation of this action is different than anything we have seen.”

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