Passengers on United Airlines Flight 416 from Salt Lake City to Denver were in their seats, waiting to taxi to the runway, when their pilot suddenly announced that “an interpersonal confrontation [has] upset me significantly to the point where I’m not focused enough to fly you to Denver.” Apparently, the “interpersonal confrontation” started when the pilot was caught wearing his hat in front of management.
United’s pilots are understandably pissed that management is saving costs by axing 1,600 employees while simultaneously funding a $130 million executive cash bath. As a form of Ghandi-esque protest, the pilot’s union has asked its members to take off their hats in management’s presence—which seems counterintuitive, since we always thought taking your hat off was a sign of respect, not a way to flip a finger to The Man.
Anyway, this poor pilot KEPT HIS HAT ON! He was busted by another flight crew, and was so bent out of shape by the ensuing “interpersonal confrontation” that he decided to cancel his flight—which is much better than flying angry, because you really don’t want your pilot cutting off other planes or tailgating.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said in an e-mailed statement that the flight was canceled according to company procedures designed to ensure flight crews are prepared to fly. The airline re-accommodated its customers on other flights and will give them “goodwill gestures,” which may include miles and travel certificates, she said.
Urbanski declined to identify the pilot or provide details of the incident, but she did not dispute the passenger’s account.
“We will conduct a full investigation of the events leading up to the cancellation and take appropriate, necessary action,” she wrote in the e-mail.
David Kelly, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United pilots, said the union won’t comment on the incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration says it’s up to the airlines to determine when and how pilots can walk away from the cockpit if they feel unfit to fly. “But we’d expect that if the pilots aren’t fit to fly, they would not fly,” said FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette.
And now we know how airline labor negotiations can directly impact customer service.
United flight canceled after upset pilot refuses to fly [USA Today]