Delta Airlines is being criticized for bumping passengers to accommodate a basketball team. On Sunday, passengers with tickets on flight 5059 from Gainesville to Atlanta were told their flight was canceled. They later learned the plane was used to transport the University of Florida's basketball team to Storrs, Connecticut for a game.
Although the flight was scheduled to leave at 3:30 pm on Sunday, some of the passengers were forced to spend an extra night in Florida. Gainesville Regional Airport spokeswoman Laura Aguiar said the 50-seat plane was completely booked for the flight to Atlanta.
Some of passengers were seriously impacted by the cancellation. As reported by Gainesville.com, one of the passengers missed a funeral due to the delay. The travelers said they were willing to accept the cancellation until they looked out the window and saw the basketball team boarding their plane.
Gators spokesman Denver Parler said he did not know Delta Airlines bumped the passengers to accommodate the team. He said it was not a decision made by he or anyone associated with the university's athletic association.
Traditionally, the team either charters flights or travels by bus. Although they did charter a plane for the flight to Storrs, a Delta representative said the plane experienced "mechanical issues." In a statement, the representative explained that the passengers were bumped "due to operational need and aircraft routing requirements as a result of the busy travel holiday."
ESPN reports that Delta apologized for the incident. A representative for the airline said they "made every effort" find alternative flights for the bumped passengers. They also committed to conducting an internal investigation to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The fact that Delta Airlines bumped 50 passengers to accommodate a basketball team is disturbing. However, it is still unclear how and why the decision was made.