United Customers Abandoned in Wyoming As Plane Leaves Without Them

What would you do if United Airlines diverted your plane to Wyoming and then left you there? That’s what happened to Roger Barbour just before Christmas of last year. From USA Today:

Tears filling his eyes, Roger Barbour watched in disbelief as two United Express jets took off without him just before Christmas at the Cheyenne airport in Wyoming. He wasn’t the only one left behind.

Two planeloads of passengers — 110 people — whose flights had been diverted to Cheyenne after a blizzard hit Denver’s airport on Wednesday, Dec. 20, were shocked the next day when the pilots and flight attendants boarded the aircraft and flew to other cities without them.

Some in the airport cried as they were left behind. Others were furious or stunned at the move, which U.S. Department of Transportation officials later called highly unusual. “I couldn’t believe they were actually leaving us,” says Barbour, who was going to his wedding in Canada after attending his father’s memorial service in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

It seems that airlines, big and small, are just not equipped to handle severe weather. Apparently, United had hired buses to take the stranded passengers the rest of the way to Denver, but didn’t inform them.

U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley says he didn’t know of another case in which a diverted flight left its passengers behind. Hinderman says he was “flabbergasted” when the jets took off without the passengers, whose flights had begun in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio.

“I’ve been in aviation since 1984,” he says, “and I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

Way to go, United. —MEGHANN MARCO

‘Abandoned’ in Cheyenne
[USA Today](Thanks,formergr!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    its very simple.

    stop subsidizing these pricks.

    Let their own actions dictate their rise and fall, and if they fall then fuck them.

    The whole country isnt going to fall apart because some fat slob in a huge office couldn’t divert 10,000 bucks of his multi million dollar salary out of his donut fund and into the comapny coffers where it could better his service.

    9/11 proved that we can work perfectly fine in a system without airlines, it just took a bit longer to do it. At this point I dont see that as a bad thing.

  2. davere says:

    If the cheapest flight I could find involved going through Denver, I will pay however much extra it is necessary to find a flight that will not go through the Denver airport.

    It’s not because of the scary turbulence thanks to the Rockies, but because the Denver area has horrible winter weather. It seemed that most of my flights through Denver were delayed or canceled. I finally “woke up” and learned to avoid that hellish airport and have not regretted the decision one bit.

    Avoid Denver at all costs, literally.

  3. beretboy says:

    Back about a year ago my connecting flight with Delta through Salt Lake City got diverted to Pocatello, Idaho because of weather (it was foggy in Salt Lake City). We’d already been in the air for six hours or so, (it was a two hour flight, we’d just been circling Salt Lake for most of the time), and by the time we landed in Pocatello the airport had closed for the night so everyone had to wait for a couple more hours while the airport employees got called back to work so that we could get our luggage and/or yell at the Delta people. Worst part was, that very night, the plane continued on to my intended destination because that’s where the plane was needed the next day, but I couldn’t ride the plane the rest of the way because the flight plan was filed as having no passengers. Ended up having to rent a car and drive the rest of the way. At least I got a partial refund, though.

  4. muddgirl says:

    beretboy – partial refund? That’s what really pisses me off about this sort of thing. You payed them money to get to point A. They take you to point B, and then only give you a partial refund? Can you image if this happened in other industries? I hire a maid service to clean my house. Instead, they trim my hedges and charge me half price!

  5. kerry says:

    Last winter my boyfriend (after many years of uneventful trips to Denver to see his family) got screwed by United. When the storm hit we were ready to be forgiving, but then they started dancing around about when they could get him on a flight. After much offering and rescinding of travel dates they finally booked him on a flight from Chicago to Denver by way of Detroit on December 23rd. He flew to Detroit, and then was abandoned due to an equipment delay. After 12 hours at the airport and being told there were no more flights from Detroit to Chicago (which we discovered later was not true) he had to pay for a hotel out of his own pocket, then flew back to Chicago on Christmas Eve. United will not reimburse him for his original tickets. We’ve been writing a lot of letters, and the best we’ve gotten so far is a $150 voucher. United says he won’t get a refund because he flew to Detroit. When he reminds him that he wasn’t supposed to go to Detroit originally, they chide him for agreeing to travel there and tell him it’s his fault. Neither of us will ever fly United again.
    To add insult to injury, his grandfather died on the 22nd, and United gave him a hard time rearranging the flights he was supposed to take to get him to the funeral in Tucson on the the 26th. After the Detroit debacle and subsequent ticket cancellations, however, he flew to the funeral on American without incident.

  6. radiofree says:

    United’s “Passengers’ Bill of Rights”:

    Passengers? What are those?

  7. superbmtsub says:

    LOL @ teary passengers. I seriously cant understand why ppl cry at things like this. Prolly angry or deranged but cryin? lol again!

    and United is a big wreck!

  8. mathew says:

    superbmtsub: It’s actually possible to get so angry and frustrated that you end up crying. For me, it happens after I pass through the stage of wanting to hit a customer service rep in the face.

    I’ve had something like this happen with NorthWorst. The plane didn’t turn up, and they said “Oh, we decided not to bother flying it because there weren’t enough passengers, so we’ve booked you on a bus instead.” To which my response was along the lines that if I had wanted to travel on a bus, I’d have bought a fucking bus ticket, not an airplane ticket.

  9. Sorenso says:

    Wow, not something I want to read a couple days before I plan a flight. Maybe I should hold off on getting sky miles with them. Wait, I wonder if those buss rides counted as miles… I kidd, I kidd!

    And radiofree got it right! They don’t have passengers, they are cargo!

  10. itsah2 says:

    Stuff like this happens every day. At least in Philadelphia. My flight from Poughkeepsie, NY to Greensboro, NC had a 2 hour layover in Philadelphia. The flight out of New York was delayed. The flight to Greensboro left on time. I arrived in Philadelphia, was denied access to my luggage, and told there were “no more hotel vouchers.”

    I wasn’t pleased…

  11. itchy feet says:

    They don’t call us cargo. It’s SLF (self-loading freight). For real.

  12. katana- says:

    “It seems that airlines, big and small, are just not equipped to handle severe weather.”

    Weather? Bad weather? Pfft. Never happens. Why plan for it?

  13. br549 says:

    United stuck it to me badly many years ago now. I was flying to San Francisco, and they couldn’t get through. It was fogged in. So many planes had stopped short at Sacramento that we couldn’t even go there, the airport was “full” (of planes?). So they landed in Reno, which was also stuffed with planes. All the gates were full, so we waited on the tarmac for about 3 hours waiting to get off the plane Other planes declared medical emergencies to get offloaded more quickly.

    After the 3 hours, as the door finally opened, the United air hostess said “There are no rental cars or hotel rooms available and the last bus for San Francisco already left. Good luck.”

    That INCENSED me.

    Oh, and they refused to unload our luggage.

    The kicker was that while we were stuck on the plane on the tarmac for 3 hours I said to a friend “I never expected anything like this. This is as bad as Northworst”. An air hostess heard me and said “that’s rude, my husband works for Northwest”.

    Under two months later Northwest got in trouble for holding a plane on the tarmac for 8+ hours (Jan 2, 1999). I smiled inside when I heard that, knowing that Northwest really does know how to fall to the occasion. This was the incident that led to Northwest being sued for false imprisonment.

  14. timmus says:

    And radiofree got it right! They don’t have passengers, they are cargo!

    This is the most poignant thing I’ve heard in a long time about the U.S. airline industry.

  15. ord2fra says:

    Oh I get it: Jetblue has a 6-day meltdown, and all the mouth-breathing fanbois come out of the woodwork and support them. “Great job Neeleman!” they say. United affects 110 people in CYS due to DEN being closed and people piss and moan about it. Hey, they did an operationally smart thing, move airplanes out of CYS and get them to airports where they could operate! In the story, the aircraft were repositioned to MCI and IND, and picked up revenue customers there. DEN is still closed at this time, so keeping the aircraft there in CYS is of no use.

    Maybe if Jetblue had some interline agreements, they would have been able to get those pax out of JFK last week. Interlining is where if you are delayed on one carrier’s flight, you can get a ticket on another carrier’s flight. The legacy’s all have them. Jetblue does not. Notice that AA, DL, UA, and the rest of the legacy carriers had no problems starting up in NYC after the storm. That’s because they have *years* of operating experience, where Jetblue was a complete adhocracy, and completely overwhelmed. I guess having cable TV is more important than being able to run an airline.

    Oh and btw think about those poor workers in El Salvador that maintain those Jetblue airplanes… oh you didn’t know? Jetblue uses unlicensed, non-drug-tested mechanics on its aircraft in El Salvador (Google it). Maybe being stuck on the ground was a good thing.

    Stand proud my fellow legacy airline workers!

  16. pronell says:

    I will just say this.

    I hate the term ‘boi’.

  17. cabinaero says:

    A large part of the problem here is that Cheyenne isn’t a United station — no mainline flights, no Ted, and no United Express flights. (You can buy a United codeshare seat on Great Lakes Aviation, but it’s not United metal.) Simply put, there was nobody there to directly help these people.

    The only thing bad about this situation was the lack of communication from United. They should have been more proactive in finding someone to represent them (hell send someone from the Rapid City station over).

    ord2fra is largely correct regarding the operational issues. United’s entire system was fubar for several days after the storm. My flights through DEN were cancelled preemptively and, even though I’m a 1K, they couldn’t reschedule me until after Christmas. Trying to fly those people out of CYS would have just stranded them somewhere else.

  18. swalve says:

    I’m not sure what’s going on here- do we want planes landing and taking off in bad weather? Or do we want airports to build giant hotels and car rental spots with reserved rooms/cars for every single flyer who could conceivably be in the airport at any given time?? Weather happens, that’s part of the deal when you fly. Who HASN’T sat in Detroit waiting for a thunderstorm to pass?

  19. econobiker says:

    just another reason for the website untied .com and why I fly southwest:no frills but they’re honest and treat you like humans.

  20. BotchedJoke says:

    Seems to me that the same people bitching about the drunk women who got crazy on a plane are bitching about this. Look, flying into areas with crazy weather is a craps shoot. Until the planet is permanately 90 degrees year round,(in about 6 years according to Mr. Al Gore) you just have to plan better in the winter. Or just drive your silly Priuss.

  21. Roosh says:

    TEARS for a missed flight? he is obviously not a real man

  22. Uurp says:

    He just buried his dad. And he was on the way to his wedding. I don’t know which one would make me cry harder, but he gets man-dispensation in my book.

  23. DutchFlat says:

    Well, thank the Goddamned Republicans, and a bunch of the same kind of Democrats for all of this. Airlines are regulated, but those asshole politicians on-the-take have made sure that the airlines can fuck you all they want, and if you don’t like it, then tough shit for you. This could all be averted if there were some tough regulations in place to require mandatory, substantial reimbursement to passengers who are being screwed this way. Regulated? Right, give me a break. The only regulation is a bunch of rules that get the airlines off-the-hook. You can’t even sue the bastards! Does severe regulation work? You’re damned right it does. The FRA (railroad administration) has regulations re. the length of time a train crew can work. If they exceed it, and they get caught doing it, the train crew, i.e. the engineer, will, personally, pay a HUGE fine. Oh, and the railroad pays also. So, when the crew’s hours are up, the entire train is stopped, right on the tracks, whereever. A new crew is brought it to finish the job. I don’t want to hear any stupid jokes about stopping airplanes in midair here. The point is, hardcore regulations, hardcore enforced, and the airlines would stop this bullshit. Don’t blame the airlines; blame your “elected representatives” for letting this happen.

  24. shdwsclan says:

    Would somebody please thing of the magrails !

  25. a_m_m_b says:

    way to be asshats. give the man a break, he’d just came from his father’s funeral & was en route to his wedding.