Hey Delta, what’s the real reason for the flight delay?

By | March 21st, 2016

Why did Delta Air lines cancel Julienne Battalia’s flight?

She was flying from Seattle to Montreal via New York on Jan. 22, when snowstorms started bearing down on the northeast.

But she breathed a sigh of relief when her connecting flight from JFK to Montreal, which was supposed to depart in the evening, appeared to escape the wrath of the blizzard.

“Then I learned that my flight to Montreal was canceled due to lack of crew,” she says.

Who cares? A canceled flight is a canceled flight, right?


“I was not given any coupon, a refund, a place to sleep — nothing!” she says. “When I called Delta a week later, I was told the flight was canceled because of the weather. No reimbursement.”

Would it have made a difference if Delta was experiencing a crew shortage?

Actually, that’s something Delta’s contract of carriage — the legal agreement between Battalia and the airline — addresses in its Rule 240. (Ah, remember the old Rule 240? Don’t get me started.)

C. Delta’s Liability For Additional Amenities in the Event of Schedule Changes, Delays and Flight Cancellations

Except as provided above, Delta shall have no liability if the flight cancellation, diversion or
delay was due to force majeure. As used in this rule, “force majeure” means actual,
threatened or reported:

(1) Weather conditions or acts of God
(2) Riots, civil unrest, embargoes, war, hostilities, or unsettled international conditions
(3) Strikes, work stoppages, slowdowns, lockout, or any other labor-related dispute
(4) Government regulation, demand, directive or requirement
(5) Shortages of labor, fuel, or facilities
(6) Any other condition beyond Delta’s control or any fact not reasonably foreseen by Delta

Hmm, Delta lets itself off the hook for a lot of things, doesn’t it? But I’ve emphasized sections 1 and 5 because they specifically pertain to Battalia’s case.

Delta wouldn’t do anything for her even if it was a crew shortage.

Now, just because it’s allowed to do this to passengers doesn’t make it right. Delta should have taken care of Battalia, if for no other reason than that in order to get to Montreal, it scheduled a connection in through New York. Delta decided to hub-and-spoke, sending her through a storm-battered JFK. That’s its responsibility, and it needs to own it.

It kills me to slide this into the “Case Dismissed” file because I think the airline should have paid for a hotel room so she could take the next flight out. Indeed, there’s a vast gray area of cases that even the airline adhesion contracts can’t address.

I think Battalia would have more luck reaching out to one of Delta’s executive contacts, which will probably send her an apology and a gift card (their standard response). But unfortunately, she’s on the wrong side of its contract. Not a good place to be.

Should Delta offer Battalia compensation for her delay?

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  • 42NYC

    It’s tough to blame Delta for having a hub and spoke system. All airlines have this and theres probably not much demand to offer non-stop flights Seattle to Montreal.

    I’m assuming this lack of crew occurred because the scheduled crew was incoming from another flight that was subsequently cancelled by weather, thus no way for them to fly to Montreal.

    I recall that snowstorm didnt do a whole lot to upstate New York so i’ll assume Quebec was spared as well. Perhaps with a little advance planning, the op could have had Delta re-route her Seattle->Detroit->Montreal. (I am not blaming the op, i’m just giving a suggestion for next time)

  • Jeff W.

    Delta, like most airlines, will allow you to rebook for free when a storm is going to impact operations — like a snowstorm in NYC.

    As she just experienced, the plane was there but no one to fly it.

    Take advantage of the free rebooking and avoid the weather. She may have been able to reroute through Detroit or Minneapolis.

  • Michael__K

    Looks like this flight was operated by a regional carrier (GoJet). FlightStats shows that GoJet operated it’s scheduled flights from JFK to Chicago, Quebec, Syracuse, and Buffalo around the same time as the OP’s flight. The flight to Montreal was its only flight from JFK cancelled during this time period.

    What may have happened is that the crew for the OP’s flight was supposed to arrive from DCA, and GoJet cancelled its last flight from DCA to JFK as part of its storm preparations (the storm didn’t reach New York until early next morning, but it reached DC late Friday night).

    The OP can make a good case that the choice to cancel her flight in particular was a discretionary operational decision.

    @Joe Farrell may have additional advice for the OP. In the forums, he previously shared that in similar situations he has always gotten airlines to cave and settle for the full amount asked when faced with the prospect of having their airport operations manager testify for a deposition.

  • Alan Gore

    Airlines recognize some special weather types that hidebound traditional meteorologists still do not, such as the Two-Guys-Sitting-On-The-Wing-With-A-Toolbox Storm and in this case the Crew-Scheduling-Clusterfront.

  • Tom McShane

    And if it is a religious war, they invoke sections one and two and cancel the flight twice and you have to give THEM a voucher.

  • AAGK

    Shortages are under the control of the airline, unlike weather. How unfair that it waives responsibility.

  • Bruce Burger

    That sounds like a really broad force majeure definition: “Shortages of labor, fuel, or facilities”.
    I assume a “fuel shortage” would include a worldwide fuel shortage but not, say, the airline’s contractor running out of fuel, which is an operational issue that the airline is responsible for. I’m not sure what counts as a “labor shortage”. A world war and military draft that takes away half their pilots, sure. Failure to hire enough people or get them to the right place, I don’t think so.
    They might also claim (though you don’t say they have) that the crew wasn’t there because of the weather. You might reply that this is an operational issue unless there was no crew that could get to the airport by any reasonable method.
    In summary, I would argue that not having crew there is an operational error unless they can demonstrate that it was due to an Act of God. I’m not a lawyer, though.

  • Blamona

    It’s possible that the crew was coming from a storm place? On a different note, I would rather be safe grounded and get late than take my chance on terrible weather with a possible worse outcome. I don’t get these people that have to get somewhere no matter what. (Worth a life?)

  • Nathan Witt

    If there had been any danger to the aircraft, passengers, or crew, the tower wouldn’t have allowed the flight to depart, whether the danger be at the point of departure or arrival. I don’t think any (sane) person would argue that flights should leave regardless of weather or safety, but it’s not unreasonable to expect an airline to have its act together regarding crew and equipment availability, and in those instances where it doesn’t, it’s not unreasonable to expect the airline to make provisions for its stranded passengers.