The University of Florida men’s basketball team ran into a small problem upon leaving Gainesville Sunday night: the charter jet the Gators were supposed to use to get to a road game against the University of Connecticut was grounded for maintenance. Luckily for the Gators, Delta Airlines was there to fix the problem for them.
At the expense of other travelers.
Delta, according to a report in the Gainesville Sun (via Gawker), told passengers on flight 5059 out of Gainesville that their flight was canceled thanks to maintenance issues on their plane. That’s when a few passengers saw the Florida basketball team boarding the plane instead. A Delta spokesperson told the Sun that “due to operational need and aircraft routing requirements as a result of the busy travel holiday,” the airline chose to cancel the commercial flight.
The flight was originally scheduled to leave Gainesville at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Florida’s game against UConn didn’t tip off until 7 p.m. Monday. So while the Gators landed in Connecticut about a day before their game, some of the original passengers weren’t so lucky. According to the Sun, one missed an appointment with a moving truck during a cross-country move. Another was a student who had to drive to Atlanta to make a required event. Yet another missed a funeral.
Delta’s spokesperson said all the passengers were booked on new flights. Some of those flights, however, originated from other airports in Jacksonville (80 miles away), Orlando (130 miles), and Tampa (140 miles), and at least one of the passengers had to wait until Monday to catch a flight. The airline also provided the passengers with vouchers for future flights, though it did not disclose the values. Delta is required by federal transportation law to compensate passengers who are bumped from flights, up to $650 if arrival is delayed by one to two hours and up to $1,300 if arrival is delayed longer. The Department of Transportation fined Delta $750,000 in June for violating laws regarding the involuntary bumping of passengers.
In all likelihood, Florida has an agreement with Delta that the airline judged as more important than the passengers on the original flight. But perhaps it was the Gators who should have stayed behind in Gainesville. They lost to UConn Monday night on a buzzer-beater by Huskies’ guard Shabazz Napier.