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Home Travel “Militant Forces” Brought In To Control Passengers After United Cancels Flight For Second Day

“Militant Forces” Brought In To Control Passengers After United Cancels Flight For Second Day

by Staff

“Militant Forces” Brought In To Control Passengers After United Cancels Flight For Second Day

After an hours-long mechanical delay, United Airlines cancelled flight 997 from Accra, Ghana to Washington Dulles on Thursday. Customer baggage was offloaded and returned. Passengers were told to return the next day, but were not provided with hotels for the night.

Friday night, another mechanical delay for this flight. And another eventual cancellation. Military was called in. The airline announced that no hotel rooms would be provided, and this time luggage wasn’t returned.

Two mechanical cancellations for a long haul flight, two days in a row, is bad luck. How the situation is handled, though, is entirely within the control of the airline. Here they didn’t just fail basic customer service, but their legal obligations.

When United Airlines has a controllable cancellation, for instance because the plane goes mechanical, they’ve committed to:

  1. book passengers on another airline
  2. provide meal vouchers
  3. cover hotel accommodations for those who need it (along with the cost of ground transportation to and from the hotel).

It appears that they did none of these things. At an outstation, such as in Africa, it can be difficult to accomplish these things lacking the same sort of staffing and infrastructure in place that the airline has at or nearer its hubs.

However given the carrier’s ambitions to be a global airline, it needs to put in place the resources to deliver on its published commitments. (United also committed to limit use of law enforcement in the aftermath of David Dao’s dragging but I guess that didn’t apply to the military.)

While airlines are reluctant to reimburse costs incurred by travelers, and there are hoops to go through to get through the airline’s bureaucracy for this, they certainly should do so when they fail to deliver on their commitments. And anyone experiencing difficulty with this should complain to the Department of Transportation.

I’ve often said that you really don’t want the hotel that an airline will provide to you for free, both because of the time it frequently takes to get one (waiting for the airline to do it, often standing in line) and because of the quality of the accommodations that they’ll provide (you get what you pay for). So for the savvy traveler, an airline’s abdication of its legal responsibilities can be the best of all possible worlds.

Maybe you have credit card trip delay coverage, so that coverage from the card used to pay for your tickets picks up the tab. Maybe you don’t – in which case it’s an opportunity to take better care of yourself and get reimbursed – though of course in both cases you need to be in a position to front the funds.

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