Friday, June 20, 2008

United Airlines Flight Canceled Because of Upset Pilot

United canceled a flight from Salt Lake City Thursday afternoon after the pilot announced to passengers that he was too upset to fly, according to one passenger on board.

The pilot, who may have been involved in a labor-related dispute with colleagues, said that he didn't feel he could fly safely, said Paul Jacobson, an energy company executive who was aboard United Flight 416 to Denver.

United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said in an e-mailed statement that the flight was canceled according to company procedures designed to ensure flight crews are prepared to fly. The airline re-accommodated its customers on other flights and will give them "goodwill gestures," which may include miles and travel certificates, she said.

Urbanski declined to identify the pilot or provide details of the incident, but she did not dispute the passenger's account.

"We will conduct a full investigation of the events leading up to the cancellation and take appropriate, necessary action," she wrote in the e-mail.

David Kelly, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United pilots, said the union won't comment on the incident.

Jacobson said he saw the pilot in a heated cellphone conversation at the gate before he boarded, and overheard the pilot saying that "he was going to complain to the union."

After the passengers were seated, the pilot made his announcement.

"I'm roughly paraphrasing here, but the pilot came on the PA and said, 'some of you may have witnessed an incident I was involved in at the gate. I'm not going to go into the details, but it was an interpersonal confrontation that upset me significantly to the point where I'm not focused enough to fly you to Denver. I feel like I may not be calmed and focused enough to fly to Denver for another hour,' " Jacobson said.

The passengers reacted to the pilot's announcement with a collective groan. "I'm going to give him credit for standing in front of people and saying that," Jacobson added. "Still it was a very unusual situation."

Jacobson said another passenger questioned the crew and that passenger told him the incident stemmed from crewmembers from another United flight observing the pilot wearing his hat. United's pilots union has been urging pilots to remove their hats when they "are likely to be viewed by management," as a form of protest, according to a notice on ALPA's website.

"In the concourse, on the jetway, wherever. Show solidarity with your fellow pilots, show management our solidarity. Don't wear your hat," it says.

In a statement dated Jan. 15, the union instructed members to adopt the practice because "now is the time to show management that this pilot group is serious about regaining what was stripped from us during bankruptcy."

Two things to think about here; 1. if the airplane couldn't take off if the passengers wern't upset there would be no planes flying anywhere because by the time you get to the gate, United has upset you much more then this pilot will ever know... and 2. put your hat away and grow up !!!

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