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Experts deride alleged ‘cronyism’ of former United Airlines CEO

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NEW YORK — "How is it possible that the Chairman of the Port Authority is trading his position for special favors for an airline? That is outrageous to me."

That is the question that many are asking after United Airlines confirmed the bombshell development on its corporate webpage on Tuesday, a day that saw the airline's now-former CEO Jeff Smisek step down for allegedly reviving a dormant flight path between United's east coast hub at Newark Liberty International and Columbia, South Carolina, specifically for ex-Port Authority Chairman David Samson.

The move is reportedly to have taken place in exchange for United to get the green light on projects of interest. Samson, was appointed Chairman of the Port Authority by Governor Chris Christie and resigned following the now infamous Bridgegate scandal.

This latest scandal is being described in two words by Justin Green: "It's cronyism."

Green is a Manhattan-based aviation attorney and president of the International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association.

"His job is to run an efficient and safe operation," Green said. "The job is not to be getting special favors from an airline so that he can go to his vacation house and we've lost something if our public officials and the people we trust to run an airport are doing these sort of things, we've lost something."

Green is not the only one questioning the integrity of Samson. Phyllis Salowe-Kaye said the alleged back-room dealmaking shows a lack of institutional control.

"Not only does it lack transparency but they are operating there like the OK Corral," Salowe-Kaye said. "It seems that people can do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it and nobody has any responsibility."

Salowe-Kaye is the executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, watchdog group that has been around for more than 30 years, "They don't change a flight for you or me because we want to get to someplace quicker. They change a flight because they are getting something in return for that."

As for those who are picking up the tab? "It's all at the expense of the taxpayers of New Jersey."

United confirmed that they are working with the Federal Government in its investigation.

As for the officials and the agency that are supposed to have the best interest of the public in mind? Here is how Salowe-Kaye sums it up, "There has to be something better that this agency, that has millions and millions of dollars, should be doing rather than cutting a deal with United Airlines so somebody can play golf."

When asked if its dirty politics? Salow simply says it is, "unfair politics."