Israeli Passengers Suing United Airlines for $400k Over Delays, Pilot’s Refusal to Fly to Tel Aviv
A group of Israeli passengers is seeking 1.18 million shekels (over $461,000) in damages from United Airlines for a 28-hour delay on a flight from the US to Israel on June 13th, The Marker business journal reported Tuesday.
The claim, filed on Monday in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court by 71 passengers, lists a long series of cancellations and delays on flight UA84, which was originally scheduled to take off on the afternoon of June 13th.
“We boarded the flight, and a technical malfunction delayed the takeoff; we missed our slot, another hour and a half delay; we begin to roll, and another snafu pops up,” traveler Amir Ofer told Israel’s Channel Two News in late June.
“We were held on the plane as if we were hostages,” another passenger, Roni Meital, told the reporter.
According to the passengers’ attorney, “For those four hours, in which the passengers (plaintiffs) were totally helpless, the flight attendant repeatedly announced that the takeoff was postponed due to weather conditions.”
However, “Throughout that period, takeoffs and landings of other United aircraft were observed at the airport … After a certain period, passengers were informed by the pilot that flight UA84 was canceled and that they would be transferred to an alternative flight set for the next day,” a statement read.
With no alternative, the passengers deplaned and waited for some three hours at the United check in, where, “chaos and confusion reigned.” The passengers were then given vouchers to stay at a hotel a half hour away, and three vouchers for the sum of $7 dollars each, in order to buy food before the date of the alternate flight.
“At about ten o’clock, they began to drag the passengers all over the airport,” said passenger Noa Goldshmidt. “They made us stand on line for vouchers and told us that the flight was delayed until 9 o’clock the next morning.”
The passengers’ counsel charged that “the company acted negligently and amateurishly regarding the accommodations arrangements for travelers in the hotel.”
Many passengers, including the elderly and children, arrived at the hotel to find that no rooms were allocated to them, and some passengers were forced to return to the airport and spend the night on the floor of the terminal. Moreover, company representatives did not allow passengers to recover their hand luggage that was on the first flight, forcing them to spend the entire night without their personal belongings, the lawsuit claimed.
When passengers showed up at the gate the next day, June 14th, at 7:00 am in order to make the alternate flight (UA 2080), set to take off at 09:00 am, they discovered that the flight had been postponed until 12:30 because the flight crew had not been scheduled to arrive.
To the passengers’ bewildered astonishment, three hours after the plane arrived, the flight was canceled, this time because of a technical problem in one of the engines.
Finally, they boarded the flight – only to sit on the tarmac yet another three hours – until, “the pilot decided abruptly and without explanation, that he didn’t want to fly the plane to Tel Aviv,” the passengers’ representative said.
“We were waiting for a long time, and finally the staff came out and told us that the pilot had refused to turn the engines on because he did not want to fly to Tel Aviv,” one passenger recalled.
In the end, the 213 passengers had to endure three security checks in order to board three separate aircraft.
For their part, United spokesmen said at the time that flight UA84 “was canceled due to adverse weather conditions at Newark Liberty International Airport,” adding that “Our customer service team at New York/Newark provided assistance to customers and overnight hotel accommodation.”
United said that “the pilot was not removed from the cockpit,” despite a cellphone clip showing the pilot walking down the aisle accompanied by two uniformed New York police officers.
According to one passenger, it was unclear if the pilot’s refusal to spin up the jet engines stemmed from a possible labor dispute or unwillingness to fly to Israel.
United Airlines had no comment on the lawsuit, according to The Marker.