The Plane Truth
July 29, 2009
  • Share
  • 10/14/2007

    Would an airline lie about the cause of a flight delay to avoid compensating passengers? There is a clear incentive to lie: Airlines owe you nothing if a delay is due to weather or other factors outside their control, but most promise in their contracts of carriage to provide meals and a hotel during a long delay if the fault is theirs.

    When Delta canceled a recent flight and blamed weather, Frank Pimentel of Herndon was suspicious. The details: He was scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Wichita at 9:20 p.m. Just before then a storm hit Atlanta, but it quickly passed. He waited around for five hours, and at 2 a.m. his flight was canceled.

    Pimentel went to a flight-tracking Web site,, and found that 291 flights had departed Atlanta between 9:20 p.m. and 2 a.m. So maybe the bad weather was in Wichita? No, Pimentel says: Eight flights landed in Wichita that night after 10 p.m., including one from Atlanta.

    His guess: Delta canceled the flight because the intended crew members had “timed out,” meaning that if they’d flown to Wichita after the short weather delay, they would have worked too many hours.

    In fact, Pimentel’s flight was canceled because his plane never made it to Atlanta that night , said Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott. While en route to Atlanta, she said, the plane was diverted because of weather. Besides, if Pimentel’s guess about the crew had been correct, she said, that still would have been a weather event .

    “Weather doesn’t always mean the weather where you are or the weather where you’re going,” Elliott said. ” Any disruption anywhere can cause a ripple effect .”

    Bottom line: If the first ripple on any airline is caused by weather, open your wallet, because meals and hotel are on you.

    Date: 2007-10-14