United Airlines Investigating Ted Cruz Data Leak

Filed Under: United

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas made headlines this week for his trip to Cancun in the middle of a major crisis in his state. United Airlines is now investigating who may have leaked some details regarding his trip.

The basics of Ted Cruz’s trip to Cancun

This past Wednesday Ted Cruz flew from Houston to Cancun on United Airlines with his family. While he tried to fly under the radar (no pun intended), this was making national headlines by Thursday, as people caught onto what was happening.

Cruz started by throwing his kids under the bus, as one does, claiming he was just trying to be a good dad, and was just dropping his kids off, and would fly back on Thursday:

“With school canceled for the week, our girls asked us to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.”

Text messages revealed a different story, though. Heidi Cruz (Ted Cruz’s wife) had texted friends in Houston, stating their house was “FREEZING,” and inviting others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun (where they’ve stayed “many times”), and stated that rooms were $309 per night.

At this point people started looking at the upgrade list for the United flight from Cancun to Houston, noticing that Cruz was just barely missing the upgrade.

Again, Cruz claimed he was just dropping off his kids, but then it was revealed that Cruz had actually changed his flight. A source at United clearly accessed his reservation, and reported that at around 6AM on Thursday he changed his return flight from Saturday to Thursday.

Cruz eventually admitted this, and said “it’s been a tough week.”

United Airlines now investing data leak

Most of the information about Cruz’s trip to Mexico was made public through “legitimate” means — there were pictures of him at the airport, his name was on the public upgrade list, etc. However, there’s one detail that someone could get in trouble for.

Specifically, someone had leaked that Cruz had changed his flight from returning on Sunday to returning on Thursday. Politico reports that United Airlines is now investigating this, and that the person who made the leak could be terminated:

“It’s against United’s policies to share personal information about our customers and we are investigating this incident.”

The airline states nothing is “off the table,” and the outcome depends on if they can figure out with certainty who disclosed this information.

Lots of employees have access to United’s reservations system, and can easily see the record of flight changes that have been made. That being said, it’s my understanding that SHARES (United’s reservations system) doesn’t actually log who views a record.

Therefore it’s unlikely SHARES as such can tell them who leaked this information. I’d bet quite a few employees had looked into this (purely out of curiosity), so they likely won’t get in trouble for doing so.

Flight attendant union tells United to drop it

Sara Nelson, the President of the Association of Flight Attendants (often referred to as the most powerful flight attendant in America), is telling United to drop this investigation, saying that they are “all the leak.” She stated that Ted Cruz is “not a customer,” but rather that “he’s a public servant who has lied too many times.”

Bottom line

Ted Cruz’s trip to Mexico has created a lot of controversy. The trip itself aside, he first threw his kids under the bus and then lied about it. That lie was exposed when an airline employee revealed that he had in fact changed his itinerary to return on Thursday rather than Saturday.

United Airlines is now investigating the incident, and threatening to terminate the employee behind it. I’ll be curious to see if anything comes of this — I doubt United will be able to figure out everyone who viewed the record, much less who actually leaked the info.

  1. If he really wanted to travel on the DL, maybe he shouldn’t have asked the police for assistance beforehand.

  2. As you know, if your spouse works as a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, it would be very difficult for her to navigate the airports. Which is why Sen. Cruz, being the loving husband and father that he is, obviously decided to carry a large suitcase just to drop off his kids for one night! Totally normal!

    On the data privacy issue, I generally agree that customers’ data should be kept secure. There was no court subpoena for this. Sure, it can be argued that this is an extraordinary circumstance, but is that enough ground? I’m not sure myself.

    I’ll say this, though: if it were AOC leaving New York during Hurricane Sandy, his party would absolutely skewer her for it. So are politicians exempt from the general rule? I might say that, sure.

  3. If I were a United employee suspected of leaking this information, I would point to the fact that Heidi Cruz’s friends leaked the group chat where she was making travel plans. Then the investigator would say “I saw that. I think it’s even possible that Heidi leaked the texts herself, since Ted never stood up for her after Trump called her ugly.” Then I’d say “oh my god, that makes so much sense!” Then the investigator would chuckle and say “boy, it’s really something how literally everyone hates Ted Cruz so much,” and let me off with a wink and a verbal warning.

  4. I don’t care who the passenger was a data leak is unacceptable. Even your curious employees should be terminated. I know I sound harsh; however, data leaks are no joke. Imagine if banks started divulging politicians financial transactions to the general public. Every business has a duty to protect data. Employees are only supposed to access data they have a right and need to know. I don’t care if it’s Sanders, AOC, Cruz or McConnell.

  5. Agree 100% with @Charles S. The topic of an airline employee publicly sharing ANY details about ANY customer is a data privacy issue. It is not a political issue. The employee should be fired immediately.

  6. Yea, I mean I hate Ted Cruz. He’s a slimy showboater who has done absolutely nothing or the country or the state of Texas. I am glad he is being humiliated right now and hope he is run out of public life and lives eternally under a cloud of shame and ridicule.

    But even I was kind of shocked that an employee would find and give out that information. Not a good thing.

  7. Funny how hypocritical Sara Nelson and those braysayers in the party of the jackass can be. A customer’s data should remain private and not be released by some self-righteous leaker. And that also goes for releasing the names of all the 15,000 nursing home customers who died because Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo forced known COVID carriers into nursing homes.

  8. On the United app you can change your device’s date/time to see upgrade lists for flights far into the future in the Flight Status section. It is possible that someone upon hearing CRU, R flying IAH-CUN Wednesday night or Thursday morning immediately go through numerous CUN-IAH flights into the future, found him, and suddenly at 6 am CRU, R disappeared on the Saturday or Sunday flight and re-appear on a Thursday afternoon flight.

  9. I don’t see the point in an investigation. It is going to be hard to prove harm as Sen. Cruz is a high profile public official whose movements are reported on a regular basis. Who is going to file a complaint, Cruz? Did anyone in particular stand to gain materially? What is the remedy? The only victim here is the people of Texas who will have to evaluate this conduct at the next election.

    What would be different, however, is a scenario like if a prisoner was being moved and certain people leaked certain information to certain people that resulted in that prisoner escaping or assassinated. That sort of thing can happen in criminal trials and there are strict procedures for that.

    Clearly that wasn’t the case so Cruz should take his lumps.

  10. That United FA leader seems absolutely insufferable.

    It’s not a good look for Cruz, but I can’t be too bothered about it. Remember those mayors who told people to stay home for the holidays then left to travel themselves? Politicians just aren’t people you should expect much from!

  11. Data privacy leaks aside (and that’s a major issue that can’t go ignored), the real story is just how much of a piece of &$%# Ted Cruz is and an insufferable jerk who turned his back on his State and his country.

  12. I would guess UA will find out who accessed the record rather easily. Every agent has a code that registers when they access a record. They then eliminate who needed to access it. But that will still leave a high number of employees who did. I remember from my days in reservations people would look for celebrity bookings all the time. Especially if there was a news event. I would think all those employees will face very minor disciplinary action if there is a policy against this. However unless the person who leaked the data used a company device to do it, I can’t see how they will figure it out.

  13. I wonder if Ted and family had to test negative prior to returning to the States or were they exempt like they are from all the other laws they pass.

  14. @Charles S.

    “Imagine if banks started divulging politicians financial transactions to the general public.”

    This would actually be extremely cool though? Certainly preferable to the current setup where lawmakers wield their power and information advantage to make tons of money through insider trading with absolutely zero consequences.

  15. Charles S is 100% correct. Customers have to be able to trust companies with their personal information. When I worked for an internet company that is trusted with large amounts of information about its users, it was made crystal clear at employee orientation that accessing anyone’s records–even your own!–without a business-related need to know was an immediate firing offense with zero tolerance. The employees who accessed Cruz’s records out of mere curiosity should lose their jobs.

    I say this despite the fact that I would vote for “random name to be picked from the phone book” over Ted Cruz for any office whatever.

  16. @ shoe guy
    Meanwhile Joe Biden took a snow day on Thursday. He needs to be reminded he’s president of America on an hourly basis.
    Give the guy a break. He was only dropping his daughters off in Cancun. Look at the map and the close proximity of Texas and Cancun. It’s not as if he went off the grid.

  17. D3kingg

    Nice try at deflection from Cruz.

    Biden didn’t leave the country in the MIDDLE of a huge disaster.

    That’s what Cruz did.

    And Cruz wasn’t ‘only dropping off his daughters’. Why say something you know is a LIE?

    He was supposed to be there for the entire trip. He only returned early because of the heat he was receiving – including from his own party.

    As his wife was also in the trip there was no need for Cruz to fly at all.

    And then he blamed his kids for making him go in the first place.

    Cruz deserves no breaks at all.

  18. @D3kingg – you are 100% correct. This vendetta against Cruz is simply a deflection by the media to divert attention from the disastrous job Biden has done with the federal recovery issues in Texas.

    I can only imagine if Trump were president we would be hearing about the failed federal disaster management and how Trump is to blame.

  19. @ChrisC

    Look at the map. IAH-CUN is literally no different than LGA-CLT distance wise. What Biden did is much worse than Cruz by not sending FEMA into Texas. It was payback for not carrying the state during the election.

  20. @D3kingg

    “What Biden did is much worse than Cruz by not sending FEMA into Texas.”

    Please don’t lie.

    Here is the announcement of the Feb. 14 Emergency Declaration for Texas, which authorized FEMA to coordinate disaster response: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/14/president-joseph-r-biden-jr-approves-texas-emergency-declaration/

    Here is a news report from Thursday about the extent of Federal assistance that had been provided up to that point: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/539437-biden-authorizes-supplies-for-texas-amid-power-outages-approves

  21. $309 must be the rate for a standard room at the RC Cancun. I’m surprised as bad as it is, that they wouldnt go for at least a suite!

  22. D3kingg

    Biden did send FEMA in to Texas and other federal resources.

    He signed the necessary order last Sunday – 14th February. A fact easy to check.


    You really are deluded if you think Biden would deny a state help because it didn’t vote for them. Thats what his predecessor did (such as with California and the fires – which were mostly on federal land!).

  23. LOL to @David and @D3kinnng who are sad that TX, which took very specific steps to cut off their electric grid from the rest of the nation to avoid federal regulation is sad that — despite an Presidential emergency declaration on Feb 14 — the federal government hasn’t been speedy enough in disaster recovery — and that somehow its all Biden fault. Truly next level idiocy.

    With that said, back to the main story — they will do the investigation and it will probably be pretty easy to determine who looked at the PNR. My biggest fear here however is that United makes it harder and more opaque to view all the waitlists and other information about their flights that are already public facing. They by far lead the industry in giving customers access to this information and making it easy to navigate. I wish others replicated their openness. I hope they don’t take that away.

  24. If HkCaGu is correct, and the info was obtainable with the App, then UA can only blame themselves.
    Biden’s trip to Pfizer in Michigan was postponed from Feb 18 to Feb 19 because of the weather. (Some people are just desperate to ‘prove’ the new Admin is as bad as the previous one. Go ahead and compare the Federal response to Texas with that for California fires last summer).

  25. So states want more power and when they screw up cuz they couldn’t handle the power, they want the federal government to help them and when it won’t, blame it for the ills of your state. Makes sense

    Anyone who thought Lyin Ted was actually dropping off his kids is a gullible idiot. He won’t stand up for his wife or father, so why would you think he won’t throw his kids under the bus?

  26. This moron is a joke, he would do anything to benefit his political career, lying definitely is the basic thing he can do. Still remember he criticized Trump during 2016 election and when the loser lost, he then suck up to Trump even though after Trump has made a comment how ugly his wife was. What a loser!!!

  27. I believe UA will conduct an investigation and essentially come up empty as it would be hard to make the leap from accessing a PNR to leaking details (unless the agent did something crazy like posting on social media).

    In any event, he came clean when his wife’s chain text was outed and admitted his original plan was to return over the weekend.

    I felt sorry for his little poodle that was left home alone in a freezing house. I wouldn’t leave my fur babies in such conditions, especially with the added risk of freezing pipes breaking and flooding.

  28. If Ted Cruz was incommunicado while in Mexico that’s one thing, but I doubt he was disconnected. Decisions fall to Senator Cruz, buts not like he will go and service the power grid or the water system.

    There is saying “It is not my job to fix the problem, but it is my job to get the problem fixed.” Many in congress don’t live in the districts they represent. So they are not there but they still are able to represent their constituents (or not).

    As to the data leak, this could set a negative precedent. Personally, I think anytime an elected official is traveling outside of the country they should be assured that travel plans won’t be leaked.

    Yes, the travel may have been a tone deaf moment for Cruz, but he is also human and sometimes we all put our foot in our mouths.

  29. There should be more criticism leveled at Sara Nelson. Frankly, what Cruz did was wrong but he clearly and quickly realized his mistake. The media has magnified it (typical).
    In the end wouldn’t we all be better off without Polititians and Union leaders?

  30. And we all know full well if this had been a prominent dem politician’s info leaked, the entire media complex would on 24/7 outrage mode and Pelosi and Schumer..et. al would be creating a special investigation and bringing all the powers of government down to finding and destroying anyone responsible for the leak. But Ted Cruz? meh. Whatever. Kind of funny. He deserves it. etc… Because we all know, if not for double, the left would have no standards at all.

  31. He’s walking through the middle of an airport, it’s not that hard to tell who Ted Cruz is even with a mask on.

  32. I’d be surprised if there’s no log of who viewed records. That level of metadata is critical to protecting data, especially personally identifiable data, in any application storing and accessing that data.

    If it doesn’t, whoever overruled an Information Security Manager’s shouldn’t have their job.

  33. “United Airlines is now investigating this, and that the person who made the leak could be terminated” The guy is a member of government AND he was actively lying to the American people. It would be rather disgusting if United was going to try to cover up for ted cruz. Don’t consider it private information once he starts giving interviews to the national press making false claims about his travel schedule.

  34. The guy is a liar. He lied repeatedly. And every time he was caught in a lie he tried to lie again. You have to be a real political hack to try defending this guy. Seriously who just flies to cancun to drop their kids off? What a piece of garbage this guy is. On top of this is the fact this is a guy who constantly calls for officials in the other party to resign for every little thing. Just another hypocrite.

  35. Everything has to be political doesn’t it? Like we don’t have enough real problems in this country? If you don’t like Cruz good for you. If you like him good for you too. Personally, unless Cruz has a degree in electrical engineering or worked as a lineman, I don’t see what impact his presence of absence in Texas would have made for my two kids who are waterless and freezing in Austin and Houston or the millions of others who have suffered from the storms. I don’t blame him for getting his family out of the misery. I suspect everyone who could have left for warmer climes would have. I offered to fly my kids to Phoenix. Please don’t give me any crap about the captain going down with the ship or it was his job nonsense. I flew with Kirsten Sinema who was on her way to an Ironman when Congress was in session and I thought good for her. They are all human beings and deserve a life. Some of you clearly need to get one.

  36. Yea, I mean I hate Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom. They are both slimy showboaters who have done absolutely nothing or the country or the state of New York and California. I am glad they are being humiliated right now and hope they are run out of public life and lives eternally under a cloud of shame and ridicule.

    But even I was kind of shocked that an employee would find and give out that information. Not a good thing.

    Thank you DMNYC (above). In the spirit of a Joe Biden political speech of the past, this post has been plagiarized, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

  37. Lyin’ Ted is the Senate’s biggest hypocrite. And he’s clearly a lousy father if he agrees to take his daughters to Mexico in the middle of a pandemic just because they ask. Talk about entitled. There was absolutely no reason for him to go, especially if he was planning to upgrade himself and leave his family in economy. His daughters could easily have gone with his wife, though it is a completely unnecessary trip.

  38. Hello American Airlines, you do know that there are other passengers on a plane at any given time, and all one has to do is call a friend, oh yeah, POST IT ONLINE.

  39. Without looking into how many nonstops there are from DFW to CUN (my guess is only 1 or 2 now due to pandemic) anyone can look at flight status on the UA app and do an easy search for the upgrade list.

    Cruz is scum. Deserves this outrage. Those supporting him really are deplorable. To think it is ok for him to jet off to a luxury resort during those conditions with a CDC guideline of essential travel is not “the right move”. But what can you expect from a man who is told his wife is ugly on national tv and then steps right in behind that accuser and licks his boots?

    Just admit it was wrong. Americans have a 2 hour memory and I am sure some new drama will happen soon enough to make this nothing too.

  40. @Janet, The info about his attempted upgrade was for his return flight from Cancun to Houston which presumably was alone while family remained in Mexico.

  41. I am so glad that we got rid of Trump.
    Now the blog can focus on the real issue, anyone who is not a D.
    I was hoping for more travel related stuff, even a cursory review of the flight, hotel, his beard, but nope more of the same only on a broader scale.

    It is a privacy issue. if any Democrat was outed like this, imagine the uproar over the violation and security concerns. Imagine if they were actually confronted by a voter instead of a lobbyist with a handful of cash.

  42. Nbody is expecting Ted Cruz to be an engineer or fix the power plants, but he could have stayed in town to support his constituents by performing helpful actions — like Beto O’Rourke organizing wellness calls for seniors — or even AOC raiaing money for Texans’ relief efforts. If he did not always act like such a scumbag, people (of both parties) would be less likely to jump on him for a failure like this. Through his history of smarmy behavior, he has brought the attacks upon himself.

  43. What a bunch of idiots. Thank you fake news for taking nothing and turning it into a political scandal. The man has nothing to do with state operations. IF he was needed, he would pick up the phone and do what he needed to do. This is what our country has come too. Totally stupid. SHUT UP people.

  44. @Mary Ann Karas Agreed. Some people here make it sounds like this has everything to do with Cruz being a Republican, and imagining the hysteria if this were instead a Democrat, but the truth is this wouldn’t have garnered anywhere nearly as much attention if it were anyone other than Cruz, who has made a whole career of being a high-profile asshole.

  45. Harold

    There is nothing fake about this story

    Even Republicans are angry at Cruz over this and his awful defence of his actions. For crying out loud he even blamed his kids for going in the first place!

    The only idiots are those like you that are trying to defend the indefensible and ignore the truth.

  46. I am not going to get into politics as many others have done here. I will say, hopefully United will find out who leaked the information and terminate them. Privacy policies are there for a reason, and apply equally to everyone, even a public figure.

  47. It is not an unusual thing to do. He has no say so in State affairs. He is a Senator was represents Texas in the Federal level. There is absolutely NO reason that he needed to stay home He was very capable of handling his business as a Senator via phone or internet. Geeze people he is a family man too. Give him a break!

  48. Whatever you think of Cruz, fine. But how can anyone condone Nelson’s outrageous message? And then we’re supposed to respect the people she represents when we fly?

  49. I hope the UA FA union demands that the next contract allows the publicizing of the movement and flight details of all politicians, as early as possible, and includes the location of any bodyguards the politician has on the plane.

    Fair is Fair

  50. I reread some of the storylines and I tend to believe that whatever the UA “leak” might have been, it only contributed to the story but did not start it. Even if UA was buttoned up, Ted Cruz was publicly spotted in the airport. His presence and movements would have eventually been acknowledged regardless of any of his upgrade activities with UA. The only way Cruz could have left the state of Texas without any public exposure was by private plane. Regardless of what he could have done and when, as we know politics is often perception precedes reality. Cruz shouldn’t have left the state full stop because it signals that his (families) personal comfort and situation comes at the detriment of the folks that he represents.

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