Delhi, the capital and largest city in India with a population of roughly 21 million, has been making headlines lately with reports of its alarming smog and pollution problem. Air quality in the city has descended so sharpy that some estimates suggest that breathing it in is as harmful as smoking 44 cigarettes throughout the course of the day. While tourism is a vital part of both the city and country’s economy, the escalating pollution has forced at least one carrier to completely halt all flights to Dehli.
United Airlines, a Chicago-based airline and the world’s third largest carrier in terms of yearly revenue, announced the issuance of a travel waiver on Thursday, November 9th in response to what it deemded a “public health emergency.” The carrier also clarified that customers who hold tickets from the date of the announcement through until the following Monday have the opportunity to rebook affected tickets at no cost, provided they are of comparable value.
According to their press release, the carrier is working in tandem with India’s government agencies, though in what precise capacity local authorities are involved is unclear. As of the end of the week, United is currently the only carrier to suspend flights amid the health crisis. Etihad, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM Royal Dutch, United’s immediate competitors, have yet to take any action regarding their flights to Dehli. The city itself was forced to close schools, suspend construction projects, and bar road freight access into the city until visibility improves.
United’s decision regarding the situation abroad comes as they face a peculiar lawsuit at home. A flight attendant with 32 years worth of service has decided to sue the carrier over a dress code issue. According to the lawsuit, the 60-year old flight attendendant requested to wear clogs due to foot problems. While she was permitted to wear the shoes while aboard the plane, United made the strange decision to bar her from wearing them while traveling through the terminal. Despite winning her case before the EEOC this past May, the flight attendance has chosen to proceed with her suit.
United’s prudent decision to suspend flights while their competitors remained silent stands oddly juxtaposed with their treatment of the aggrieved flight attendant. After backlash earlier this year when a passenger was forcefully dragged from a overbooked flight, United has struggled to even out its public perception and restore its reputation. The cancellation of flights to Dehli certainly shows an improved attitude for the welfare of their passengers, though the lawsuit suggests continued issues with treatment towards their employees.