Airlines know passengers capture everything on their phones. The images are prima facie evidence of events. Yet airlines still try to obfuscate and prevaricate over compensation they owe passengers for disruption – until that evidence is mentioned. When the airline wants to flex its power, flights are turned around, and passengers are arrested and put on banned lists. The relationship between an airline and its passengers is unequal – read the contract of carriage.
The smartphone is a powerful instrument that does a lot to level the playing field in favor of the passenger.
On May 3, 2023, United flight UA72 from IAD-TLV had an unusual disruption. About 4-5 hours into the flight, passengers were told that there was a “slight crack” in the windshield and, for precautionary reasons, the flight was landing in Dublin, Ireland, to determine the extent of the damage.
Upon landing, passengers were told they could not continue on the aircraft. They were also told United was sending another aircraft that would be flown in the next day in the afternoon at 4:00 and arriving Friday night at 11:00. The story changed; United then informed passengers they would depart Dublin on Friday at 9:00 AM and arrive at 4:08 PM in TLV.
A passenger on the flight contacted United and requested compensation for this disruption. United responded to this request “…sorry for any inconvenience the flight diversion caused you. Due to strong winds causing the aircraft to burn more fuel, an extra stop was made to refuel.
Please know the safety of our passengers and crew is always our top priority. As a thank you for your patience and understanding, I’m sending each of you a $250 electronic travel certificate. You can use this certificate to purchase your next United or United Express flight. It will arrive via email in the next few business days.
On behalf of United, we look forward to seeing you again.”
The passenger’s response to this message: “It was not due to strong winds, it was due to a shattered windshield that was likely caused by negligence in pre-flight inspection. See attached photo. I also have a video of the flight dumping fuel and am happy to share that video, although it is a larger file. It is obviously not due to weather.
I was stranded in the airport for 12 hours and had no representative to talk to. I also had my luggage and couldn’t check them in due to there not being any gates open from United or ElAl ((who I eventually was able to fly with to get to Israel). I do not want this to require escalation to merely receive fair compensation. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the National Enforcement Body for EC 261/2004.”
Here is the video of the 787-10 dumping fuel to land in Dublin.
And here is the “slick crack” in the 787-10 windshield.
The story ends with United compensating the passenger with $1,200 after initially offering $250 in an electronic travel certificate.
This is not an anti-United Airlines story. This happens routinely with all airlines – use “disrupted flights” as a search term.
- Keep your phone handy when you travel and ensure it is charged before the flight. You may need it.
- Also, be familiar with any laws that apply. to disruption on your route. EU laws are especially useful, In the event you have an unplanned visit.
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.