United Airlines exec calls for 'aggressive' energy policy to combat rising costs of jet fuel, tickets

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United Airlines CCO Josh Earnest offered an explanation Tuesday for the rising price of airline tickets: jet fuel. 

The cost to fly increased 18.6% month-over-month according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnest told “America’s Newsroom” it is a direct result of the surging cost of jet fuel, which he said has doubled in price over the last several months.

“We’re actually going to pay $10 billion – with a ‘B’ – more in fuel costs this year than we did in 2019,” the former Obama White House press secretary said. “The increase that we have had to absorb is incredible.”

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Earnest noted the simultaneous increase in demand as Americans are seizing the opportunity to travel after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earnest called for “aggressive policy” to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil, a move he said would ease costs.

“One of the ways that we can do that actually is investing in sustainable aviation fuel,” he told co-hosts Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino.

Earnest said United Airlines has invested in a company that produces jet fuel made from municipal waste, which United tested in 2021. 

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“In December, United was actually the very first commercial airline to operate a commercial flight with one engine powered 100% by sustainable aviation fuel,” he said. 

He emphasized that the fuel is safe and operated at the level they expected. 

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS / USA - March 10, 2018: A United Airlines passenger aircraft - Boeing 777 - arriving at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on a sunny morning.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS / USA – March 10, 2018: A United Airlines passenger aircraft – Boeing 777 – arriving at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on a sunny morning.
(iStock)

The airline industry, like many across the country, is also facing a worker shortage. The lack of pilots, Earnest said, is an acute problem.

“You can’t just hire somebody off the street to become a pilot,” he explained. “There are years of training and experience that somebody has to go through to become a pilot.”

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United Airlines is attempting to address the problem with its pilot training academy, which Earnest said can train 500 pilots each year. 

“We’re really excited about it,” he said. “It also gives us an opportunity to diversify the cockpit and open up that career opportunity to people that historically have not had that opportunity.”

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