United flight canceled after upset pilot refuses to fly

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
United flight canceled after upset pilot refuses to fly
By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

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.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it's up to the airlines to determine when and how pilots can walk away from the cockpit if they feel unfit to fly. "But we'd expect that if the pilots aren't fit to fly, they would not fly," said FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette.

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."

Passengers were allowed to get off the plane until it was ready to leave, and most people did so after the announcement, Jacobson said.

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."

Hundreds of United employees, including pilots, flight attendants and machinists, rallied last week in Southern California to protest the management's decision to set aside stock worth about $130 million to fund a new incentive plan for executives while the company plans to cut routes and lay off up to 1,600 employees.

"I fly United a lot and I understand that they're operating under difficult circumstances. And they do a good job. But it's one thing to suffer from mechanical failure or bad weather, but it's quite another when internal strife rises to flight cancellation," Jacobson said.

He called his corporate travel manager, who rebooked him on a Southwest flight. United informed Jacobson that he will be reimbursed for the leg of the trip, about $120.
 

bdhill1979

Gone West
slightly off subject....

But removing your hat??????

Is that the "Iron Will" of that union???

That sure will show management, that sure will get back what you once had.

What are they going to do next? Chew gum in sixth period?
 

Nick

Well-Known Member
Perhaps it is merely to indicate the number of pilots in agreement over something.

If 100% of the pilots are without hats, management might get the signal that the pilot group is completely unified.
 

minitour

New Member
slightly off subject....

But removing your hat??????

Is that the "Iron Will" of that union???

That sure will show management, that sure will get back what you once had.

What are they going to do next? Chew gum in sixth period?
I was thinking the exact same thing. Almost word for word.

:yup::yup:

-mini
 

fly8slep

New Member
Take a look outside if you see any contrails and an airplane the chances are the Crew is talking #### about the company at that very second. We all get pissed off but canceling a flight is not good, I suspect United will have one less pilot to furlough come September.
 

MQAAord

Scheherazade
Staff member
Oh I doubt he'll get fired. That would set a very bad precedent that doing the "safe" thing and not flying a flight you're not fit to fly will get you fired...... I'm sure there'll be one heckuva carpet dance, and a letter in the pilots file about the situation, but I do not think this will result in termination.
 

JA Yawd Bwoy

Well-Known Member
Umm... what ever happened to reserve pilots?

No offense intended but I thought that the role of reserve pilots were to be there in case something like that happened:confused:
 

Nick

Well-Known Member
Well I forgot he flies for a real airline where the unions care.
I don't know what you mean by real airline; if it has to do with mainline unions caring more I disagree -- I fly an RJ and our union has gotten one particular pilot's job back seven (7) times.

Now of course that's going the other way a bit in my opinion; why keep an obviously bad apple but it proves a point that the union is as powerful as the one at United in instances such as this thread's topic.
 

Screaming_Emu

Dogsheep
Good on him for realizing that he was too irked to fly....but I hope it was something much more serious than a hat.

If there is something on your mind that wont let you give flying your full attention, you should opt out....but you should also have a fairly thick skin I'd hope. But we were not there, so who knows.
 

ProudPilot

Aeronautics Geek
I agree with Screaming Emu. We've all had those 10 second "head in the cloud" moments where something that's happened to us made us lose focus on the flight. If that happens a lot, just not safe. Especially with a lot of passengers in really busy airspace.

But you know.... S340 guys go ahead :p. J/k, J/k.... I was really talking about (put your despised aircraft here)!
 

Bandit_Driver

Gold Member
Umm... what ever happened to reserve pilots?

No offense intended but I thought that the role of reserve pilots were to be there in case something like that happened:confused:
With all the cutbacks these I can't imagnine airlines having a lot of reserves sitting around. Heck back at my previous carrier just 1 or 2 pilots calling in sick in a timely fashion would cause huge problems system wide and jr manning.
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Taking their hats off?

That's seriously how United pilots are showing their management that they deserve better compensation?
 

Minuteman

“Dongola”
Next week they're going to wear their ties with a dimple in the knot!

I don't think any significant improvement in pay or conditions will happen until the company is unable to staff enough qualified and reliable people to meet their needs. Some ways that can happen is through attrition, benevolent management, or a strike. Anything else is just a weird behavioral quirk in the employee arrangement.

Not wearing hats to demonstrate a uniform resolve for further action is about as significant as all the airlines getting together and writing nice stack of letters to the fuel companies to say they won't buy as much fuel if prices don't come down. :rolleyes:
 

Kristie

Mama Bear....
Staff member
Umm... what ever happened to reserve pilots?

No offense intended but I thought that the role of reserve pilots were to be there in case something like that happened:confused:
can't call a reserve pilot *that* fast.....it can be at least 2 hrs if not longer (i think) before a reserve pilot is able to show.
 

Polar742

All the responsibility none of the authority
I heard that one time all the white collar workers, who always wore white shirts by the way, at IBM were upset at management. They were sending a final notice to Management prior to begining an organization drive.

They all wore blue shirts.

Look at it this way, what is the best signal, that when the corp is ready to burn the house down? You ALL do something unified. It's sending a message that everyone cares enough to do something as simple as not wearing a hat. It's merely a message.

Next step: Monday ontime performance 50%, tuesday 95%, Wednesday 50%, Thursday 95%. Does it walk the line? Yes. Are they going to fire all the pilots? No.

These are the reasons to listen to your MEC, the VARS messages and participate. A union is only strong if the pilot group is organized.

Now, that being said. Am I a blind-loyalist? No. At the same time, I wouldn't undermine any efforts my MEC is putting forth. The only leverage pilots have is ourselves, and what we do everyday. In a singular sense, each one of us is replaceable, otherwise when the first group of aviators retired, there would be no aviation. However, if the pilots are unified as one, and stop flying, there is no airline. Similarly if there are no dispatchers, or mechanics, or flight attendants, or rampers, then airplanes don't move.

However, if a skeleton crew will maintain the operation, then a stoppage of the operation is not a threat.

You don't always have to think you MEC is always right. However, don't sell them down the river. A strike vote? It'd better pass by 95% or more, and the other 5 or so percent should be incorrectly marked ballots. Why? In truth, the strike vote is merely a vote of unity. It is to show management that the union group is united as one, and will act as one.

Even in everyday items, your group can show unity. Be a professional, fly smart and safe, follow your company's rules, the FAA's rules and your the rules set forth in your CBA. The CBA isn't a guideline, it's a rulebook.

Fly safe, and have fun out there.
[/ramble]
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Should a "union" even need to send a message that they're "unified"? Aren't they sorta that by default? If they need to take a measure to prove it to the people they work for, then sounds to me like it's not exactly what you'd call an effective organization.

Not wearing hats is just a ridiculous measure to take.

I'm sure the corporate guys are just shaking in their boots at the thought that all those pilots are "unified" in not wearing their hats and what they "might" do next.
 

gtpilot

Well-Known Member
can't call a reserve pilot *that* fast.....it can be at least 2 hrs if not longer (i think) before a reserve pilot is able to show.
Dunno about other airlines but we have a couple of pilots each day sitting on duty in ATL for this type of thing. Most of the rest of us on reserve have to be able to duty in within 2 hrs. Not being a hub would make it more problematic though! ;)
 

MQAAord

Scheherazade
Staff member
Most major/legacy pilots do not have to do the "airport reserve" thing. ;) Heck, DL's reserve report time is 12 hours, with "short call" (an eight-hour period where you have a roughly two-hour call out) being considered a reserve assignment in and of itself!

DL and AA do not have reserve pilots sitting at the airport. AA had "Standby" flight attendants, but not pilots.

Also, the crew base thing as others have mentioned is the other issue. To get a reserve pilot to cover a trip like that could take 4-6 hours to get him/her actually to that airplane, by the time you call out a reserve and get him on a dh flight to SLC.
 
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