As reported by The Jerusalem Post, United Airlines is being sued for fraud, breach of contract, and negligence, following a delay on a recent Newark to Tel Aviv flight. Let’s cover the basics of the flight, and then we’ll look at the lawsuit.
United Airlines’ controversial flight delay
This incident involves UA84, United Airlines’ August 6, 2022, flight from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV). The flight, which was operated by a Boeing 787-10, was scheduled to depart at 4:25PM. However, shortly before departure, passengers were informed that the flight would be delayed by over 12 hours, and would instead depart early the following morning, at 5:45AM.
The reason this flight ended up getting a lot of media attention wasn’t because of the delay as such, but rather because of the reasoning that United provided for it. United Airlines’ website indicated that the flight was delayed “because of a curfew at Tel Aviv’s airport.” Many passengers took issue with this, since Ben Gurion Airport in Israel doesn’t have a curfew, and also didn’t have one at the time.
Meanwhile a gate agent announced that the reason for the delay was because the crew was “refusing to take the flight at this time.”
In response to a press inquiry, United also claimed that the delay was due to a maintenance issue. Meanwhile another passenger reported being told that the delay was due to thunderstorms and bad weather.
While we don’t know to what extent this is connected, this flight took place the same time as the most recent fighting in the Gaza Strip, where we saw rockets fired into the Tel Aviv area.
Passenger sues United Airlines over delay
Migir Ilganayev of the Ilganayev Law Firm was a passenger on this flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, and on August 26, 2022, filed a lawsuit against United Airlines over the delay. The airline is being sued for $50,000 with interest and legal fees, as United is being accused of fraud, breach of contract, negligence, and more. According to the summons:
“[United] committed fraud and deceit against Plaintiff and all other passengers when its crew refused to perform their job, and United deliberately, and knowingly lied about the reason for its delay.”
The plaintiff in this case ended up booking a separate flight on EL AL for $769.80. However, the passenger was denied access to his checked bags, which would be put on a United flight to Tel Aviv. It’s also claimed that United provided little support to passengers, though travelers were offered a $40 meal voucher.
While some passengers claimed that United denied accommodations for stranded passengers, the airline disputes this claim, and says that hotels were provided to passengers.
My take on this incident
To me this incident sounds like just another flight delay? Yes, airlines are absolutely terrible at providing accurate information regarding flight delays. This is no doubt a problem in the industry, and in particular airlines love to default to weather as the reason for delays, as that’s something that can’t be controlled, and gets them off the hook.
Here you have claims of four different reasons for the flight delay. Was the curfew reason wrong? Of course. But I’m not sure I’d necessarily attribute that to malice, rather than stupidity.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the pilots said (rightly or wrongly) they weren’t comfortable flying to Tel Aviv while there were rockets being fired, and then the person responsible for updating flight status listed a “curfew” as the reason for the delay, since “pilots not comfortable flying due to rockets” probably isn’t a great look either.
Unfortunately airline contracts of carriage are notoriously one-sided, and barring any government regulations, airlines don’t make any promises about when they’ll get you to a destination. Personally I don’t think United “made up” this delay just for giggles, in the sense that there was a “valid” reason for the delay, even if it was within the carrier’s control.
If the pilots refused to fly in light of rockets near Tel Aviv, then the airline obviously had to find new pilots, and maybe there were no reserve pilots available (as we’ve seen all too often this summer).
To me it seems like a bit of a stretch to file a $50K lawsuit over a flight delay, but then again, I’m also not a lawyer with time on my hands, so…
United Airlines is facing a lawsuit over a recent Newark to Tel Aviv flight delay. The flight was delayed by over 12 hours, and passengers were given a variety of reasons for the delay, from a non-existent curfew, to the pilots refusing to fly, to weather, to maintenance. That’s unfortunately far too common in the airline industry.
A passenger has now filed a $50,000 lawsuit against the airline, alleging fraud, breach of contract, and negligence. While I can appreciate the frustration around how poorly and inaccurately airlines communicate delays, I’m not sure this meets the threshold of being worthy of such big monetary damages…
What do you make of this lawsuit?