When an airplane chartered by the University of Florida men’s basketball team was grounded for maintenance Sunday, Delta Airlines bumped passengers off a flight to get the team to the University of Connecticut before a Monday night game.
Passengers on flight 5059 out of Gainesville were told their flight was cancelled due to maintenance, but then a passenger noticed the basketball team boarding the plane instead, the Gainesville Sun reported.
A Delta spokesperson told the Sun that the commercial flight was cancelled “due to operational need and aircraft routing requirements as a result of the busy travel holiday.”
Instead of taking passengers to Atlanta, they allowed the team to charter the aircraft. Delta Connection flight 5059 left at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The basketball game in Connecticut wasn’t until 7 p.m. Monday.
Gators reached their destination a day early, while bumped passengers were rescheduled, many onto flights out of other airports like Jacksonville (80 miles away), Tampa (140 miles away, and Orlanda (130 miles away).
Although tit is unclear how many passengers had booked the flight, the plane was a 50-seater, according to Laura Aguiar, a spokeswomen for the Gainesville Regional Airport. Many passengers were likely returning home from the Thanksgiving holiday.
One passenger missed a funeral because of the rescheduling.
One woman told the Sun she was planning a move from Salt Lake City to New Jersey, but she missed the moving truck. She had to scramble to find someone to meet the movers instead.
The Sun reported at least one passenger had to wait until Monday for a flight.
Delta says it provided passengers with vouchers for future flights, but did not disclose the value of those vouchers.
A spokesman for the basketball team, Denver Parler, told the Sun he was unaware of the passenger-bumping incident. He said any changes to the plane they used would have been made by Delta.
He estimated about 35 people, including the team, were on the flight.
"We generally fly private charters, although we do bus one or both ways for some games that are closer to home," Parler wrote in an email.