American, United Passengers Abandoned in Nebraska

American says it’s not their responsibility that Trans States Airlines, their operating partner, abandoned two plane-loads of passengers in Nebraska, 3 1/2 hours away from their destination. From USA Today:

American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner says he’s unaware of what happened in Nebraska, and it isn’t American’s responsibility. “Trans States is responsible,” he says.

In case Tim is till wondering, what happened in Nebraska was this: Two planes full of American and United passengers left to Denver International Airport. They were diverted to Scottsbluff Airport in Nebraska because of fog in Denver. The operator Trans States Airlines, unloaded the passengers and left.

“Bill Mishk, Trans States’ vice president of marketing, says the pilots took off only after they learned that buses would be sent for the passengers. “If there was a breakdown in communications, we certainly apologize for it,” Mishk says.

Skelton [Nebraska Airport Manager] says he talked to the pilots before they departed, and they were unsure when buses would be sent by their company.

Can we go out on a limb here and say that its just not acceptable to get within “bus range” of Denver and drop people off?—MEGHANN MARCO

2 more flights abandoned fliers on the way to Denver [USA Today]


Edit Your Comment

  1. kcskater says:

    I went to school in Rochester, NY and this kind of thing happened all the time. Weather in Rochester or Buffalo could be bad so instead of canceling the flight, the airline would divert to the other airport and use buses the rest of the way (~1 hour). Personally I favored the bus vs. not getting back to school for class the next day.

  2. davere says:

    This reinforces the comment I typed the other day to always avoid flying in/out/through the Denver airport even it costs you more money.

  3. shekondar says:

    I flew to Denver on United last October and got delayed because of fog. My plane circled Denver for an hour, then got diverted to Colorado Springs. Then, we sat on the tarmac there for almost two hours (in a fully-loaded crappy regional jet with one bathroom). The guy sitting next to me was actually going to Colorado Springs, but he couldn’t get off because even if he did, his bags were still going to Denver.

    They finally let us fly back to Denver, where we got to sit on the tarmac for another hour waiting for a gate & ground crew.

    I would have been more than happy to take a bus.

  4. mikesfree says:

    I dont know what other option there would have been. On one end, you have the planes wait until the weather gets better sometime, and then the next group of people along the route somewhere would have had the flight cancelled for them. The bus option is not optimal, but it seems like the only reliable way to make something work in this case. Regardless, they should have informed the people what was going on.

  5. esqdork says:

    At least JetBlue apologized, even if their Passnger Bill of Rights has some sneaky definitions in them. American Airlines essentially said “not my problem,” although I would suggest that it is if they took money for Trans States Airlines. I think there should be a requirement that all airline executives fly anonymously three or four times a year with us in steerage and see how they like it.

  6. Pelagius says:

    Any other industries where a customer buys your product then you give them someone else’s, without the customer having any choice in the matter? To the extent that branding has any value any more, customers choose United over “Rinky Dink Midwest Airline” because of its reputation (believe it or not). Then they get stuck on RDMA which dumps them in Omaha. Nice.

  7. j.a.s.o.n says:

    “I think there should be a requirement that all airline executives fly anonymously three or four times a year with us in steerage[.]”

    That should definitely be a part of any forthcoming Passenger Bill of Rights.

  8. royal72 says:

    screw those passengers, they should have come prepared! i always travel with a mule and at least two weeks worth of dried meat in case i get stranded in bfe.

  9. beachpilot says:

    mikesfree, I would suggest that cancelling the subsequent flight, where the passengers actually have a chance to book a different flight, is a better option. Leaving passengers stranded mid-course is absurd. Googlemaps says the trip by road is 3 1/2 hours. If it was more like an hour (like in kcskater’s example) the bus would of course make sense (assuming of course that the airline actually TOLD me that they’ve arranged a bus), but spending half a day on a bus would not be acceptable to me.

  10. cabinaero says:

    Technically AA’s spokesman is correct in that leaving the pax in Scottsbluff was Trans States decision. iirc, the regional carriers are contracted and are free to make their own decisions regarding deboards, positioning, etc. even though they operate under a major carrier’s flag and livery. They even report their passenger statistics (deboard, oversales, cancelled flights, etc.) to the DOT as a separate airline and pay any penalties out of their own pockets.

    That said, the majors really need to start watching their contractors more carefully. Most of the flying public sees an American flight, they don’t see and American flight operated by Trans States. Any screw up by a regional is going to reflect — and reflect poorly — only on the major carrier.

    @ davere — you do realize you’re avoiding DEN based on a comparitive handful of flights, right? We’re talking about three messed up flights in/out of an airport which handles over 40,000 flights per month on average.

  11. radiofree says:

    Is there a way we can blame jetBlue for this?

    So AA spokesman Tim Wagner disavows his company’s responsibility for the stranded passengers. I do wonder, though, whether the passengers booked their flights through AA, and whether AA made any money from the passengers.

    Tim, rather than disavow, AVOW.

  12. Demingite says:

    The “American Connection” branding implies to me, and probably most consumers, at least some responsibility on the part of American, no matter what legal relationship there may be. Instead of a buck-passing statement like, “It’s Trans States’ responsibility,” it would have been better if he had said, “We expect x y z from our brand contractors, and unfortunately it looks like they didn’t meet American Airlines’ standards. We will do our part to help Trans States do a better job.” In fairness to the spokesperson, that small quote at the end of the USA Today article may have been taken out of context.

  13. Docmarvy says:

    Speaking as a Nebraskan can I just ask, what’s so bad about Scottsbluff? Sure, it isn’t Omaha, Hastings or Alliance… but it’s still a vivacious metropolitan area.

    I mean, come on.

  14. mikesfree says:


    Still, get on a bus and get going to the destination in 3.5 hours or sit there and wait until something happens with the weather. I would probably get going and do what I could. Sometimes, you just dont get the best options, but you do what you can. The airline cant control the weather too, and having the empty plane sit there while I sat in the terminal would be little consolation to me if there was a chance to get going.

  15. dariaclone says:

    @Docmarvy: I hope you are being sarcastic in calling Scottsbluff a “vivacious metroplitan area.” That’s like callng NYC a quaint little town.

  16. brooklynbs says:

    Years ago I was flying from Columbus, Ohio to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The flight got diverted to D.C. National (now Reagan Airport) because of thunderstorms. I don’t remember the airline, but we landed in D.C. and went to a gate because someone in the crew had to get off.

    I was flying with just a carry-on so I grabbed my bag and asked if I could deplane. The crew OK’d it, and the next thing I knew, about 10 other passengers decided to leave also. The diversion actually saved me from having to take the train from BWI to D.C. Instead, I just hopped on the Metro and went home.

    Something similar happened last year when I flew from Las Vegas to Newark. The flight was diverted to LaGuardia because of some sort of issue. The airline (I think it was Continental), gave us the option of getting off at LaGuardia or staying on the plane for 45 minutes and flying to Newark.

    I only had a carry-on again, so I got off the plane and grabbed a cab to my house – which is about 6 miles from LaGuardia. This time the diversion saved me from having to take a bus into the inner regions of Hell (Newark), then the PATH train into Manhattan, and, finally, the subway to Brooklyn.

    Travelling light rocks.

  17. John Stracke says:


    Any other industries where a customer buys your product then you give them someone else’s, without the customer having any choice in the matter?

    Well, yeah. Happens all the time in the computer industry—e.g., Apple doesn’t build its own MacBooks or iPods.

    The difference being that, if your iPod breaks down, Apple is still on the hook; they don’t make you fly to China and complain to the guys who built it.

  18. Pelagius says:

    Apple doesn’t build its own MacBooks or iPods

    Not quite analagous. More like if you ordered an Apple iPod and they took your money and sent you a Zune instead. A Zune filled with contemporary Christian music.

  19. John Stracke says:


    More like if you ordered an Apple iPod and they took your money and sent you a Zune instead.

    Not really. In that case, they’d be specifying featureset X and delivering featureset Y. American doesn’t specify its featureset well enough to give you grounds to complain when they change it. They probably even specified, in the fine print, that it was a code share flight. Where they fall down, though, is in pretending that the passengers that gave them money are not their customers.

  20. mad_oak says:

    DID ANYBODY ACTUALLY READ THE ARTICLE? THERE WERE NO BUSES!!! Nobody told the passengers because nobody at the airline arranged a bus! The Lady at the HERTZ CAR RENTAL DESK arranged the bus, collected money from the passengers. Only then did the airline offer to pay for the bus.

    This was simply “get off my plane, FU, I don’t give a rats ass if you make it to your destination”

  21. beachpilot says:

    @mikefree : The plane wasn’t sitting on the ground. When the weather cleared, the plane took off empty, leaving the passengers behind. Hence the outrage.

  22. kimbobear1 says:

    I just want to know why for the past two years under Verizon commune that I have had to have my cell phone replaced FOUR times. The cell phone had the same problem EVERY SINGLE TIME. What does Verizon do? They replace my phone with the EXACT same model phone. What gives? I have been a customer for several years. I always pay on time. Always renew. Always go over my minutes so ya gotta know they love me as a customer. I was given a slip of paper from a store manager that instructed me to go on line and fill out a survey. The first time I did it and was taken care of I was impressed. Now, by the fourth time I am quite irritated. The store rep tries to make me feel like I should be humble and appreciative that Verizon QUOTE “has gone above and beyond what is expected of them.” I asked the rep, “Do you think I should have had to go through this for two years, not knowing when this phone was going to work or not? Being in a bad location in downtown Cleveland with a phone I thought was charged only to find it was not due to the faulty device you gave me?” I will stop there but I went on for the rep. Their resolve was to offer me the chance to renew my two year contract FOUR MONTHS EARLY so that I could get a free phone. The choice they gave me I did not want so I would have to add $80 to get what I wanted. After doing the math adding the cost of chargers and other accessories I must have looked like the gal in the Exorcist when she turned her head all the way around when I said, “Okay, forget all that business about renewing the contract. What is Verizon gonna do about this DEFECTIVE phone.” The rep took a deep breath and excused himself to speak to his manager. What did I get? Guess. At this very moment I have the EXACT SAME PHONE sitting under my bed waiting to be set up to be used. Oh he was kind enough to say, “If you stop in with your new phone I will be glad to transfer your contact info.” God I hate Verizon. My surveys go unheard. Probably because I complained that I had to write 3 of 3 parts to get everything I wanted to say in. They say Please write a survey. We care and want to hear from you then they limit the number of characters you can use. Do you think they really care? These guys are too big for their own britches. I hope they cave. :) thanks for listening. That was good therapy.