United CEO on diversity plan backlash: “Reaction shows the country has further to go” than he realized

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FILE – In this July 18, 2018, file photo a United Airlines commercial jet sits at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

CHICAGO (WHTM) — The CEO of United Airlines reaffirmed his commitment that half of the airline’s newly-trained pilots will be women or people of color despite backlash he didn’t seem to expect.

Kirby, speaking to media in anticipation of an announcement Tuesday about a new environmental commitment, compared that commitment to the diversity commitment, which drew criticism last week from conservative commentators, such as Brigitte Gabriel.

“United Airlines is now prioritizing race and gender over qualifications for hiring future pilots,” Gabriel tweeted. “They are literally putting the lives of their customers at risk in the name of being woke.”

Others on Twitter supported United’s move and disagreed with the idea that prioritizing diversity would compromise safety.

As for the negative comments about the diversity plan, Kirby said: “Some of the reaction to it, I think, shows that the country has further to go than I, perhaps, appreciated. But it means that taking action is even more important.

“And what sets united apart, I think, from some other companies,” he continued, “is, when we’re talking about things like diversity or climate change, it’s not marketing, it’s not talk. It is action that we are focused on.”

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