The FAA's acting administrator joked about United's infamous dragging incident in newly public emails

  • Acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell sent a joking email to a United executive amid the airline’s response to its major public-relations crisis in 2017.
  • “Crossing my fingers for a denied boarding flight. ????,” Daniel Elwell said in a newly public email published by ProPublica on Wednesday.
  • The email was in response to United’s settlement after a highly publicized incident in which video of airport security officers dragging a passenger off a plane in Chicago went viral.

Nearly two years after United Airlines’ biggest public-relations crisis, the forced dragging of a passenger off a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare airport is still haunting the carrier.

In newly public emails published by ProPublica on Wednesday,Daniel Elwell, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, appears to have made fun of the incident and United’s settlement with the passenger.

“Looks like you guys have really taken leadership on this,” he wrote in an April 27 email to United’s managing director of regulatory and policy, Sasha Johnson. “Crossing my fingers for a denied boarding flight. ????.”

The email, two weeks after the viral video shaved more than $US350 million from United’s market cap, was in response to forwarded materials from United’s Sasha Johnson, a former FAA employee, regarding the company’s response to the incident. The response info was also shared with Department of Transportation employees, Anthony Pugliese and Marianne McInerney.

The FAA declined to comment, but pointed to its response to ProPublica’s larger story, which showed acting administrator Elwell often coordinated with ex-lobbyist colleagues on FAA policies.

“Mr. Elwell is a dedicated public servant as a former Air Force pilot and senior FAA official and now, acting administrator,” the FAA said. “Mr. Elwell’s extensive aviation career also includes being a former airline pilot and industry policy expert. As such, Mr. Elwell continued to have exchanges throughout different communities within aviation to attain a variety of perspectives that make aviation safer and more efficient for the travelling public.”

United Airlines did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Last week, after more than two years without an official chief for the nation’s top air safety regulatorr, President Donald Trump nominated former Delta executive Steve Dickson to the post.

You can read the full release of emails between acting FAA administrator Elwell and various airline officials and lobbyists here.

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