Delta Connection decision to cancel flight for basketball team draws ire

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines is investigating a regional carrier’s decision to cancel a flight and use the aircraft to ferry the University of Florida basketball team to Connecticut for a game.

According to media reports, ExpressJet on Sunday cancelled Delta Connection flight 5059, a flight from Gainesville, Fla., to Atlanta.

“Unfortunately, an operational decision with good intentions did not play out as was intended,” ABC News quoted a Delta spokesperson as saying.

Delta, media reports suggest, cancelled the flight after the basketball team’s plane was grounded for mechanical problems. A total of 50 people were booked on the original Delta flight and given alternative travel options, according to published accounts.

“Many of you have expressed concern about accounts of an Atlanta-bound Delta Connection flight that was delayed and eventually canceled after the aircraft required unscheduled engine maintenance while a charter flight carrying the Florida Gators Basketball Team departed on-time,” Delta said in a statement, according to The Gainesville Sun.

ExpressJet, which also operated the basketball team’s charter flight, apparently made the decision to switch aircraft, thinking repairs could be made quickly, Delta indicated in its statement. That, however, was not the case.

“An internal review is underway to understand the specific circumstances around this aircraft substitution but it is clear that the University of Florida in no way participated in the decision-making process,” the airline said. “Our efforts to better serve our customers are constant and a well-intentioned operational decision unfortunately did not work as planned. We continually look for ways to improve the customer experience and again, we apologize to those customers who were inconvenienced.”

The Gainesville Sun first reported the brouhaha. The Gators lost to the Connecticut Huskies by a 65-64 margin.

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