Delta Tosses Passengers From Flight To Make Room For The Florida Gators Basketball Team

150px-Florida_Gators_logo.svg220px-Delta_b767-300_n190dn_takes_off_from_heathrow_arpWe have often discussed how airlines have gradually stripped passengers of basic comforts and, more importantly, basic rights. That was evident this week in the Gainesville Regional Airport when an entire plane of passengers was told to get off their flight. Some said that they were told of “mechanical problems” the favorite mantra of airlines canceling flights for any reason, including too many unsold seats. However, passengers were a bit peeved when they looked out the window and saw the University of Florida men’s basketball team get on the plane. It appears that the airline decided to dump the ticketed passengers to fly the Gators to Connecticut for a game against the University of Connecticut.

Delta Connection flight 5059, operated by ExpressJet, was supposed to go to Atlanta. Instead, the airline turned it into a charter flight for the team. Delta insisted that all passengers were “accommodated” but it seems to ignore that fact that these passengers paid to fly on flight 5059 and were delayed in their travels. One missed a funeral. Airlines continue to treat such itineraries as merely aspirational. So long as they get a passenger to a location, they insist that they have no liability or responsibility for the loss of hours, bad alternative seating or hassle. The passenger’s time is legally irrelevant.

Delta admits that the original plane for the team required maintenance so it decided to bump the passengers on the flight. However, this effectively treated the ticketed passengers as less important than the team. There was no sense of obligation or commitment. They were less valuable and were bumped. The last of the passengers on the Sunday flight did not leave until Monday. However, the airlines insisted it fulfilled its contract to get them where they wanted to go.

Airline lobbyists have been uniformly successful in blocking efforts in Congress to guarantee the rights of passengers. Average people remain a captive audience to airlines. I know of no other business that can routinely violate agreements or contracts and remain immune from liability. While passengers contract to fly on particular flights, airlines can treat such flights (and a passenger’s time) as fungible and fluid. Now it appears that a basketball team is an additional cause for “mechanical problems” or cancellations for the least valuable travelers.

Source: Gainsville

24 thoughts on “Delta Tosses Passengers From Flight To Make Room For The Florida Gators Basketball Team”

  1. Randyjet, you must never fly as an ordinary passenger. I have horror stories, and this is not one of them, but I’d ask you to explain the following. On a weekend trip from a small city connecting through O’Hare to LGA, on my return, I got a cell phone message early morning that my approx. 11 am flight was delayed, and in a phone call to American I found out that the flight would be delayed for an indefinite period of time due to mechanical problems. Knowing that I would not make my connection if there would be any significant delay, I asked if the airline had anything earlier, was put on an early flight, and raced away to the airport, waking my hosts to tell them that I had to go. I made that flight and got to O’Hare in time for a connecting flight home earlier than the one I had originally booked. I went to the gate to see if there was room, the plane was there, the gate was open, I had only carry on, and there were plenty of empty seats, but they would only put me on the earlier flight if I forked out another $75. Wouldn’t it have been to their advantage to get me home, in case any problems were to arise with my original flight? I refused (totally annoyed, because the early flight out of LGA was because of their delay of my original flight) and waitied. On my husband’s next trip with the same itinerary, his flight from LGA to O’Hare landed early and he would have been able to get on the earlier connecting flight home, except the airline wanted the same $75 change fee, and my husband knew I’d kill him if he gave it to them. Explain. Those situations were minor. Needing to make a connection makes flying a nightmare; once a connection is missed because of a problem with the first flight, trying to get on another flight with flights so full is almost impossible. 20-25 yrs ago, I used to fly all the time, and airlines were accommodating, switching me between airlines and connecting cities to get me to my destination. Now I only fly if I absolutely must.

    1. HFly, I do fly as an even lower class of pax since I am retired and fly standby, though it costs me nothing. I have to leave a couple of days extra travel time to take into account the tenuous nature of my priority. I have had to stay over in a city because there was no seat available. That is part of the deal and I accept that. The airline needs to make money first and foremost, and if there is an unused seat, I get the leftovers.

      Unfortunately now we have the bean counters running things in too many businesses, most especially the airlines where bean counting is counter productive as it is in all service industries. There is no rational reason for the baggage charges on many airlines since the current planes are so overpowered that weight is not as much an issue as it was back in the old prop days when weight was a truly critical item. The same holds true for charges for switching flights. There is no rational reason for this from an operational standpoint. The real reason is that the executives know that they can use an excuse to squeeze more revenue out of their customers. I know of no service industry that will succeed with such an outlook.

      There are so many things wrong with the airline industry that I cannot list all of them. I have seen the absurd actions of private industry since I worked most of my life in the private sector and it is as bad if not worse than government agencies. I served in the US Air Force so I know how the military can screw things up. Much of that was caused by private industry contractors and private industry influence through lobbying and politics. I flew servicing a major freight airline, and they would spend a dollar to save a penny and do stupid things that made no sense at all. Then they would loose money trying to save a penny. There was also a reluctance to admit mistakes and a tendency to think execs are brilliant when in fact they are stupid. My best airline for management is Southwest Airlines. They are the most unionized too. The key to Herb Kellerher’s success is that he asked and listened to the troops in the field and gave them a stake in the airline. His negotiating stance was how much can we give this employee group when they went into negotiations with the unions. Not how much can we get out of them for the least amount. I certainly sympathize with your plight and the best thing I think would be to break up the airlines into smaller companies and to re-establish the Civil Aeronautics Board, though with less restrictive rules than they had in the past. I think that the proper role would be for the new CAB would be to set minimum fare schedules for city pairs for any airline serving them. The CAB or the FAA should set rules that promote safety and ignore the pleas of the bean counters. The FAA is still the creature of the airline industry, and not that of the government of the people.

  2. Another factor that all are forgetting about is the domino effect. Letting the ATL proceed puts all the other passengers down the line from the charter flight as less important than the passengers on the ATL flight. By cancelling the ATL flight since ATL is the home base for Delta, the dominoes STOP at ATL. The same is NOT true for the flight to BDL since Delta may well have scheduled an early morning flight out of BDL for that plane and crew. So then you get to say screw those folks who now have no flight to board. Then they may well have had to reposition the charter flight to LGA after dropping the team off for another flight full of other passengers. Once again, there is NO possible way for any of us to know all the factors, and only a fool would claim to know that the team got preferential treatment given the lack of knowledge.

    As I said originally, having flown for Delta, I know that they are one of the best around, and I seriously doubt that the “exalted” status of the basketball team had any impact on what Delta had to do.

  3. Delta admits that the original plane for the team required maintenance so it decided to bump the passengers on the flight. However, this effectively treated the ticketed passengers as less important than the team.” – JT

    They were good sports and the others were not.

  4. Delta is undoubtedly the worst airline around. And Northwest is already dumbing itself down and lowering its service standards to accommodate the merger. When Northwest starts hassling holy men, it’s confirmed its on the short road to Delta Hell. 🙂

    Think airline consolidation is good? You’ll be seeing more and more of this sort of activity as the airlines become “too big to fail” in the eyes of the Federal Government. And with fewer carriers from which to choose, our largest weapon to combat poor customer service – alternate choice – has been effectively eliminated.

    I had a broken vacuum cleaner. I found an old Delta Airlines sticker and pasted it on the vacuum. From that point forward, it sucked again.

  5. Steve Fleischer
    1, December 4, 2013 at 7:42 am
    What do we do?

    Our representatives show whom they really represent when we complain.

    The police will always back up the airline when we make a scene.

    Long trips are not feasible by car and the railroads are a joke.

    Any suggestions?
    We do know that the NSA listens…

  6. Randyjet:

    You make a good argument for a poor case.

    Excuses aside, the facts speak for themselves – Delta treated its passengers badly.

    And it is not an isolated incident, it is a mindset.

    As today’s WSJ points out in an article: “Airlines (referring to Delta) say they have the legal right to treat their most loyal passengers unfairly and in bad faith.

    Paul Clement (Delta’s own lawyer speaking in front of SCOTUS) asserted the airline’s legal right to treat frequent fliers unfairly,

    That says it all.

    Your argument about United essentially states: “United is worse, that makes Delta OK”. Pretty weak standard.

    Having flown overseas many times, I can say with confidence that international carriers are far superior to U.S. airlines. Perhaps they are not afflicted by the mechanical/weather issues that U.S. airlines point to so frequently?

    Foreign airlines also seem to have mastered that skill (which so far eludes U.S. airlines) – courtesy.

    I know, you will point to Areoflot – I will grant you that, but then we come back to your United argument.

  7. Randyjet:

    You make a good argument for a bad case.

    In spite of your disingenuous arguments, in the end results count and the results speak for themselves; Delta treated its passengers badly.

    While you make plausible excuses, Delta (on the very rare occasion when it is being honest) tells a different story about how they view passengers.

    In today’s WSJ there is a column about Delta that has this sentence in the lead paragraph: “Airlines say they have the legal right to treat their most loyal passengers unfairly and in bad faith.”

    Appearing before the Supreme Court: “Despite asserting the airline’s legal right to treat frequent fliers unfairly, Mr. Clement (Delta’s lawyer) said it would never do so as a matter of policy.

    Any organization that will assert its right (before SCOTUS – no less) to treat its top passengers badly, will treat its ordinary passengers worse.

    Re your references to United, your argument is basically: “Delta is bad, but United is worse, that makes Delta OK”. It is precisely that mindset that explains the airlines’ customer service issues.

    Having flown overseas many times, I can say with real confidence that U.S. airlines are terrible – they cannot hold a candle to most international carriers. I assume that international airlines also have mechanical and weather issues, or is that a handicap that only U.S. airlines face?

    Following your logic, you will say: “But Areoflot is worse”. I will give you that, but we are back to your United argument.

  8. The flight was on Sunday afternoon. The basketball game wasn’t until Monday night. Delta could easily have found alternate transportation in that time. There is no excuse for this.

  9. “Let us look at the facts. Both the basketball team and the passengers had claim to seats on a Delta flight. One jet broke down, and thus Delta was short a plane and crew. So the question is which group gets the plane? In the case of the basketball team, ALL of them had a hard time and place they HAD to be at. The passengers on the other hand have a lot more variables that Delta could work with and there may have been fewer of them than the team.”


    While I would normally defer to you in all matters involving air lines, I must disagree here. Basketball games can be cancelled and rescheduled. If I was going to the funeral of a loved one; or to the sick bed of a loved one; or to my child’s wedding; or to the first day of my new job; the effect on my life could be devastating. The effect on the University’s of a cancelled basketball game is a minor financial inconvenience. Delta’s action was of course to defer to wealth and power, which as an infrequent airline passenger is a situation I see as all too common among those who fly. To paraphrase Orwell: “All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others.” That is the rule in most commerce and certainly in the airline industry.

    I find the experience of being an airline passenger distressing and that’s not because I’m afraid to fly. At present if I have a destination of under 1,500 miles I drive, or take a train, unless there is a very important reason to arrive there quickly. As for the legal consequences to the airline I think it is a pity that our legislators have chosen to bend to their financial interests over those of the general public.

    1. MS The fact is that the charter flight gets paid as a full flight with all 50 seats sold. The other flight is undetermined as to how many people were on board. Since this took place at Gainesville, that means that it was not at a hub with other planes available. If you had read Delta’s response, you would know that they made their determination on the basis of availability of planes, crew scheduling, and position for the next flight of the day. In short there are FAR more important considerations than just catering to the team.

      I do not have all the information available to the airline, nor do I know the other factors. I DO know that you and all the other posters KNOW something that is impossible for YOU to know at all. So I have to disregard the validity of your complaint. You choose to take the worst case and most prejudicial take on this event, and think you have the answers. That is a leap of faith in the bad conduct of the airline that is not supported by any mundane thing such as FACTS.

      Let us take a more common situation. A plane with 50 pax on board cannot get an engine started. There is another plane available with 40 people who have not boarded yet. Which flight would you think should take the pax? Think that the 40 people should take precedence over the 50? Those 40 pax do NOT own the plane. Most rational people would have no problem with having the airline transfer the most passengers to the operable jet. Most of the posters here think that they get to own the plane when it gets to the gate. Sorry folks, life does not work that way in ANY business. The airline has to worry about the next days schedule, the number of pax going to a place, the crew position and duty time. THAT takes precedence over any consideration of who the pax are. In fact. it may have cost Delta less money to NOT to take the basketball team since they would not have to pay their hotel bill. SO I am fairly sure that there were many other factors that went into the decision to switch airplanes.

      The thing that all of you who complain forget about is the fact that the charter plane and crew do not just land and sit until the end of the game. They are scheduled for another flight after they get to BDL or whatever airport they used. It makes more sense for Delta to keep the charter flight going for a host of reasons other than the status of the passengers. The team had to travel as a group, unlike the 40 or so other passengers on the ATL flight. Delta has more options that they can use for the ATL folks by either putting them on another airline, or routing them through another place. So let’s say that they can get about 20 of the 40 or so out that night. That leaves 20 passengers left at Gainesville. Think that Delta should send an airplane for only 20 people on a special flight? Was there even a plane and crew available for such a thing? All of these things we do not know. I just ask that you put yourselves in the position of the dispatchers who have to sort all this out. They can care less WHO the pax are. The only thing that they try and do is to make the situation less bad for the most number of people.

  10. I would been livid, especially since my daughter’s law school affiliation was with the Seminoles!

  11. Lets see. I am looking on my Travelocity choices. I have a choice between Delta and go through Atlanta or Air Freight and go through Charlotte. Now which will I choose?

  12. Go gator….. Entitlement…. Yes…… We are special…. Can’t they be like some schools and have there own plane….

  13. SF MY suggestion would be to get your pilots license and instrument rating and fly yourself. Or if you want, you can charter your own plane and pilot, and avoid all the crowds and security hassles and be closer to where you want to be rather than at the BIG airport.

  14. While I know that airlines get some rightful criticism, on some matters, this is not one of them. It is especially not true for Delta since I was a captain flying under their system. I also flew under United and US Airways, and without question, United was the worst experience. It was so bad that I had to bid to another base to cut down on the United flights I would have to take. I could take a day to tell all the horror stories that I personally experienced with United. Delta on the other hand was a real pleasure to work with since they are true professionals who do their jobs, and go out of their way to do them.

    Let us look at the facts. Both the basketball team and the passengers had claim to seats on a Delta flight. One jet broke down, and thus Delta was short a plane and crew. So the question is which group gets the plane? In the case of the basketball team, ALL of them had a hard time and place they HAD to be at. The passengers on the other hand have a lot more variables that Delta could work with and there may have been fewer of them than the team. Since it was ExpressJet, they were flying a 50 seat aircraft. I know that Delta did all that they could do to take care of the passengers who got stranded and got them on the first available flight out. Since it was a mechanical delay or cancellation, that means that the airline paid for their hotel, and meals if they did not get out on that same day. So let us put ourselves in the position of the scheduler and dispatch people. Which group would you put on board a flight to minimize the disruption to all concerned? I would have to go with the decision Delta made.

    In the case of weather delays, this gets to be a lot more complex situation and a lot more taxing for the passengers since the airline is not on the hook for meals and hotels. The airlines have to look at crew duty times, aircraft availability, and scheduled maintenance issues. The airlines are going to try and get the maximum number of people flying so as to cause less problems. I had an instance of this when I was trying to get to my base to go to work. There was a near riot at our gate when after many delays, Continental cancelled the flight. Fortunately I was in uniform and had to calm things down as I explained the problems and the reason for the cancellation. If you have numerous delays or cancellations, say you have a jet with 35 people on board. Then there is another delay on another aircraft and crew with 50 people on it. It is obvious that you want to take the jet with the fewest passengers and transfer it to the flight with the highest number of passengers. So while it might look like the airline is simply trying to make more money at your expense, it is actually trying to do its best to accommodate the largest number of people. Sometimes it means that individuals will suffer, but that is life in all areas of work. Remember that it costs the airlines a huge amount of money to cancel scheduled flights for any reason. That jet NEEDS to be at some place in the morning for the next days flying. NOT getting there is NOT a matter of choice, but one which they are FORCED to do by circumstances beyond their control.

  15. S.F.
    Go to the bar and watch the game? I’m sure once it’s over and they are back Delta will have a plane for their “Riff-Raff”…………………

  16. In Alabama, had it been football, the passengers would most likely have been dumped out on the tarmac.

  17. What do we do?

    Our representatives show whom they really represent when we complain.

    The police will always back up the airline when we make a scene.

    Long trips are not feasible by car and the railroads are a joke.

    Any suggestions?

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