United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby had plenty of praise for President Joe Biden's infrastructure proposals in an interview with CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday. However, he suggested that in order for the company to meet the climate change initiatives proposed in the $3.5 trillion spending bill, United might need "government support." He noted that the government previously provided tax credits to the solar and wind energy industries to better compete with oil and natural gas industries, and Washington would have to do the same to help airlines work on clean energy initiatives and using environmentally friendly fuel.
After host Margaret Brennan noted that it would be "so expensive" for private businesses to make changes, she asked if they would need "American taxpayers to provide tax credits and to provide incentives for private businesses to go green." Kirby said support from the government would be important.
"Particularly for the climate change initiatives, we do need government support, really to fund the investment," Kirby told Brennan. "If you look at solar and wind, 20 years ago, they couldn't compete with coal or natural gas, and today it's cheaper. That's because the government provided credits to give certainty to invest in the industry, and that's what we need for things like sustainable aviation fuel. This really is an opportunity in America to drive investment, drive the next generation of great jobs that can be green, but also great jobs, great technology that we can export around the world."
The $3.5 trillion spending bill is part of Biden's proposed "Build Back Better" agenda, which also includes a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that already has bipartisan support. Kirby said he was "supportive of the entire infrastructure package," calling it a "great opportunity" to invest in American businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. He also praised the infrastructure bill for including investment in airport renovations. "There's real opportunities to make it more efficient and it'd be good for the economy, good for customers, really kind of good for society as a whole," he said.
While Kirby may be seeking tax credits from the government and taxpayers, the government recently fined the company. On Friday, the Department of Transportation fined United $1.9 million because over 3,000 passengers have been stuck waiting on delayed planes for hours, breaking federal rules, reports the Washington Post. The department noted there were 20 recent domestic flights where passengers were stuck on the tarmac for over three hours, and five international flights delayed by at least four hours. Most of the incidents involved bad weather. United claimed the flights stretched back five years, but the government said five of the flights alone happened on one day in 2019, when a storm in Chicago forced flights to be diverted to Madison, Wisconsin.