An entire plane full of passengers was left stranded during one of the busiest traveling weekends of the year when Delta Air Lines bumped a flight Sunday so the plane could be used to transport the University of Florida men's basketball team to an away game.
The 50 passengers scheduled for Flight 5059 from Gainesville to Atlanta were bumped Sunday so the hoops team could be flown to their Monday night game against the University of Connecticut, according to the Gainesville Sun
. The aircraft originally chartered for the 35 student athletes, coaches, and administrators was reportedly having a maintenance issue.
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The regular travelers were driven to surrounding airports, accommodated on other flights, and given vouchers for future trips, but were nonetheless angry about the change of plans.
"A passenger who was moving from Salt Lake City to New Jersey was going to miss the moving truck, so he had to find someone else to meet the driver instead," the Sun reported. "A student's father had to drive her to Atlanta so she wouldn't miss an event she needed to make. Another passenger missed a funeral."
Morgan Durrant, a spokesperson for Delta, told Yahoo! Sports
that the airline did its best to get both flights off the ground on Sunday. The University of Florida's charter flight was scheduled to take off at 3 p.m. and the Gainesville-to-Atlanta trip was slated for 3:26 p.m., she explained.
When the charter plane had a mechanical issue, Delta decided to use the other aircraft for the basketball team, thinking that the mechanical issue would be fixed in time for the Atlanta-bound flight to leave with just minimal delays.
"They used that aircraft to cover the charter because they were confident they could rectify that mechanical issue and then it's a win-win," she told Yahoo. "Maybe you take a slight delay on the scheduled side, you protect the charter and everyone is happy. That was the intention behind which that decision was made, but unfortunately the issue with the other aircraft was not rectified and ultimately the delay became a cancellation as a result of the mechanical issues.
"I want to emphasize this was done without the team's knowledge. From their perspective, they had signed up for a charter and in cooperation with Express Jet, we got them an aircraft. We had to make an equipment swap, but they were not aware there was a mechanical issue that was going to drive cancellations over on the scheduled side of our business."
The Florida Gators ultimately lost to UConn 65-64 Monday night.
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