Passengers Sue United Airlines Claiming Cancellations Led To 28-Hour Delay, Poor Conditions

When planning to catch a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv passengers understand they’re in for a rather long excursion. But when that trip takes several unexpected turns – two cancellations and a pilot who refused to fly – creating a 28-hour delay, it’s fairly reasonable to think travelers would be a little upset. It’s for those reasons that 71 passengers have filed a lawsuit in Israel against United Airlines seeking more than $4,000 in damages per person.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the passengers, 28 of whom are U.S. citizens, filed a lawsuit against the airline seeking more than $303,000 in compensation for what they call a travel nightmare.

The ordeal began back in June, when the passengers reported to their assigned gate at Newark International Airport to hitch a ride to Ben-Gurion Airport.

According to the complaint, flight UA-84, which was scheduled to leave at 4:45 in the afternoon and land at 10:15 a.m. the next morning, was delayed numerous times after customers had already boarded.

“Surprisingly and unexpectedly, the takeoff was delayed time and time again,” the text of the complaint said. “In this manner and despite their mood, about four hours passed from the planned departure time, but in spite of this, the plane did not begin the process of taking off. It is fitting to point out that during this time, the passengers were forced to remain in their seats without anyone coming to talk to them.”

Passengers say that during the four-hour delay flight attendants repeatedly assured them the delay was due to weather conditions.

Still, passengers reported seeing numerous other planes taking off and landing during that time.

Eventually, the flight was canceled and passengers would be reassigned to flight UA-2080, leaving at 9 a.m. the following morning.

At that time, the complaint states, the airline provided each passenger with vouchers for a hotel located about half an hour from the airport and food vouchers worth $7 per person.

Despite receiving the vouchers, several passengers found upon arriving at the hotel that arrangements for the stay had not been made; this led many to return to the airport to sleep on the floor, the Post reports.

When travelers arrived at their gate the next morning, they were told their new flight was now delayed until 12:30 p.m. due to the lack of flight staff.

According to the complaint, at 11:30 a.m. the passengers once again boarded the same plane from the day before, only to be stuck in their seats for another four hours.

At around 3:30 p.m. they were again told the flight was canceled because of a “technical issue” discovered in one of the engines. The airline notified travelers they would have a new flight time of 4:45 p.m. that same day.

“However, here too and to the chagrin of the plaintiffs the same unacceptable ritual was repeated,” the complaint said. “The feet-dragging of the takeoff began, and after several hours in which the plaintiffs again sat in their seats weak, tired and hungry, something seemingly unbelievable occurred, and the plane’s pilot decided abruptly and without explanation that he did not want to fly the plane to Tel Aviv.”

Passengers reported that even though the pilot had voiced his decision not to fly the plane, he refused to leave the cockpit. This resulted in police officers boarding the plane to forcefully remove him.

After finding a replacement for the pilot, the plane was finally allowed to take off at 8:11 p.m., nearly 28 hours after the original flight’s scheduled departure time, the complaint states.

The passengers, who filed the lawsuit at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Magistrate’s Court, are seeking $801 for each canceled flight and $2,667 for faulty service provisions per person, the Post reports.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs says the lawsuit was filed in Tel Aviv because, unlike U.S. laws, the Israeli Aviation Services Law does not require the passengers to prove damages in order to receive compensation.

The lawyer tells the Post he is confident that the passengers will receive their compensation, as the Israeli Aviation Service Law only provides exemptions for flight companies during “extraordinary circumstances.” And according to the European Court of Justice, which the Israeli law is based on, technical difficulties do not fall under that category.

A spokesperson for United Airlines told the Post they could not comment on the suit.

Tel Aviv-bound United Airlines passengers demand NIS 1.2m. for consecutive canceled flights [The Jerusalem Post]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.