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United probing Cruz flight data leak

POLITICO logo POLITICO 6 days ago By Daniel Lippman
A passenger arrives for a United Airlines flight. © Scott Olson/Getty Images A passenger arrives for a United Airlines flight.

United Airlines is investigating who leaked data revealing when Sen. Ted Cruz originally planned to return to his frozen home state of Texas, after facing a barrage of angry constituents.

Cruz at first insisted on Thursday that his trip to Cancun, Mexico, in the middle of a power and water crisis in Texas, was at the behest of his daughters and skirted the issue of when he originally planned to return.

But earlier that day, Edward Russell, a reporter at travel news website Skift, tweeted that he had talked to a source at United who said Cruz had “rebooked his flight back to Houston from Cancun for this afternoon at around 6 a.m. today (Thursday). He was originally scheduled to return on Saturday.”

“It’s against United’s policies to share personal information about our customers and we are investigating this incident,” the United executive said in a statement provided exclusively to POLITICO. The executive noted that the leaker could be terminated.


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Tens of thousands of United employees have access to customer flight data to help serve customers, but leaks about individual travelers' flight plans are rare in the industry.

The United executive said no options are “off the table,” but it depends on the outcome of the investigation and if they definitively find the employee who disclosed the information.

The leak had led journalist Yashar Ali to tweet: “That guy claiming to have a United source is putting that source in danger of being fired with his tweet. Airlines track every single keystroke of their agents or anyone else who has access to flight records.”

Details of Cruz’s original return flight from Russell was not the only piece of travel data journalists discovered about Cruz.

In addition, travel reporters discovered that a “CRU, R.” was on the upgrade standby list for Thursday afternoon’s flight from Cancun to Houston, three hours before Cruz issued his statement saying he was returning back to the U.S. Such upgrade lists are available publicly although they’re not widely publicized.

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