That’s more or less what Delta said to a group of passengers in Gainesville, Florida this past Sunday, cancelling a flight to Atlanta to accommodate the Florida basketball team’s charter service. The charter aircraft had mechanical issues so the airline swapped planes out with the one in town for scheduled service, forcing rebooking of all the passengers on to other flights. According to the story printed in the Gainesville Sun:
The airplane originally meant for the basketball team required maintenance, he wrote, and, “due to operational need and aircraft routing requirements as a result of the busy travel holiday,” Delta decided to use the other airplane and cancel the commercial flight for which it had been initially scheduled.
Just another reminder that your contract as a customer with the airlines is terribly one-sided while the charter contracts have a bit more bite to them should there be faults. Delaying a bunch of individual passengers means a couple hundred dollars here and there in travel credits. Failure to deliver on a sports charter could mean losing the lucrative contract.
There’s also the part where it is easier to accommodate the individual passengers a few at a time rather than the 35 people flying on the charter, but it still sucks for those delayed as much as 24 hours on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Also, yes, it sucks that the Gators lost.
UPDATE: Delta has released a statement. It reads, in part:
Delta Connection partner ExpressJet, which operated both the charter as well as the regularly scheduled flight, made the operational decision to swap aircraft as the maintenance work was expected to be done quickly. Unfortunately, it was not and Delta flight 5059 was cancelled. Delta made every effort to re-accommodate those customers on alternate flights and we apologize to the 50 customers who were inconvenienced.
Our efforts to better serve our customers are constant and a well-intentioned operational decision unfortunately did not work as planned.
I still say that the smart business move was exactly what Delta did, even if it is creating a media mess for them today.
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