Airline fouls out on bumping call

The unidentified ticket holder for a seat on Delta Connection 5059 was the very essence of acceptance after she was bumped from her scheduled flight.

“It just felt like the wrong decision was made by somebody who didn’t think it through,” she’s quoted as saying by the Gainesville Sun.

Obviously that woman is a forgiving person.

Because I would have been screaming some very angry words at the top of my lungs, the most publishable of which would have been: “lawsuit.”

Fortunately for my lungs, I wasn’t a ticket holder for that Dec. 1 flight from Gainesville to Atlanta.

So I didn’t have to hear an announcement that my 3:36 departure had been delayed by “a maintenance delay.”

I didn’t have to wait with 49 other ticketed passengers and wonder if I would make it on time for my connection in Atlanta.

And I didn’t have to look out the airport window and watch while a bunch of very tall young men boarded the plane that supposedly had mechanical problems and taxied to the runway for take off.

There was, to be sure, a plane with mechanical problems at the airport that afternoon. But it wasn’t Delta Connection 5059. The one with the problems was a charter flight scheduled to take the University of Florida basketball team to Connecticut for a game the next day.

But when that chartered plane was unable to leave on time, “somebody who didn’t think it through” decided that the convenience of a basketball team was more important than the inconvenience of “regular” passengers.

So the basketball team took off on the Delta Connection 5059 plane and the “regular” passengers sat in the terminal waiting for the other plane to be repaired with “minimal delay.”

Which it wasn’t. Minimal, that is. Minimal delay proved to be maximum delay. Maximum delay morphed into cancellation. Some passengers had to drive to Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa to find flights. Some gave up, rented cars and drove to Atlanta. One passenger reportedly wound up missing a funeral.

In a statement two days after the incident, Delta insisted that the team had not been given preferential treatment. And in a later statement it apologized “to the 50 customers who were inconvenienced,” adding, “We continually look for ways to improve the customer experience.”

Maybe one good way to improve the customer experience would be not to bump paying passengers in favor of a basketball team. Or, at least, it could have been upfront and announced:

“Folks, we’re bumping you off your flight because a basketball team needs to get to its game.”

I’m sure the passenger trying to get to the funeral would have understood.

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