United CEO Resigns Amid Bridgegate-Related Investigation

Jeff Smisek is being investigated for setting up a non-stop flight to curry favor with a Port Authority executive.

"United Airlines B763 N651UA" by Lasse Fuss - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“United Airlines B763 N651UA” by Lasse Fuss – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jeff Smisek has resigned as chairman and CEO of United Airlines. He’s being investigated for alleged improper dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the organization that runs New York-area airports (and gained headlines during Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal.)

The resignation comes on the heels of United disclosing that some of its executives received subpoenas from a federal grand jury regarding the company’s dealings with the Port Authority, according to the Associated Press. The AP reports that United is conducting its own investigation.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of the case is this: Authorities are investigating the addition of a direct flight from Newark, N.J. to Columbia, S.C. (coincidentally where Port Authority Chairman David Samson has a vacation house). “Published reports said the flight was referred to within the Port Authority as ‘the chairman’s flight,’ ” the Wall Street Journal wrote. The Bergen Record reports that the flight was only half-full on average and was cancelled three days after Samson resigned in March 2014.

The WSJ also detailed Smisek’s handsome payout from United, which includes “a lump sum severance payment of $4.875 million in cash,” along with “outstanding salary and vested benefits such as share awards, alongside continued benefits such as lifetime flight and parking benefits, and the title to his company car.”


The Record said the investigation of Samson started after the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal that shook up the Christie Administration. “Samson, one of Governor Christie’s closest political advisers, drew the scrutiny of federal authorities, who have been investigating whether he had potential conflicts of interest,” the Record said.