A Rockville dad says his family was forced to sit in vomit on their flight home from Orlando, Fl. Sunday.
Scott Shirley and his family were returning to the D.C. area from Orlando on a United flight when they started to store their bags underneath the seats. Shirley and his wife noticed their bags were wet. [They…] were given two options, to either fly out the next day or stay in those seats. Due to his wife’s job, they had to make it back that night and could not take the next day flight.
The situation Mr. Shirley described is certainly one that we wish no customer experiences, as our cleaners did not fully clean the seat area prior to departure. We offered them an alternate flight, but they decided to remain onboard. Our agents did the best they could in the short time they had to accommodate Mr. Shirley and keep the flight on time. We’re reaching out to apologize for his experience.
That this was at the customer’s seat is the fault of:
- The previous passenger who was the source of it
- United for failing to ensure that it was cleaned between flights
That the customer experienced this inflight is the fault of:
- The customer who chose to sit there instead of taking another flight
- United for not sending cleaners on to handle the mess right then and there
The next available flight was the next day. The passenger had to go to work. Understood.
Flights cancel, for a variety of reasons – weather (even in some other part of the country), mechanical issues. If the flight had cancelled the woman wouldn’t have been to work at her government agency the following morning. She could have viewed this as an irregular operations situation. They made the decision not to, does that mitigate in some sense the extremeness of the situation or the way this story is portrayed as United “made them sit in vomit on flight”..?
I do feel for the family, because that’s disgusting. And United shouldn’t have said “sit in the seat or take a later flight,” they might have said:
- Sit in the seat or take a flight tomorrow
- Either way you get [a significant ownership stake in the company in the form of future travel and/or miles.
Or they might have said “give us 10 minutes we’ll get that cleaned up pronto.” Clearly an airline doesn’t want to delay a flight, even for the sake of other customers. This would have been the last Orlando – Washington Dulles flight UA438 arriving 9:13pm. Now, a United inline connection (transferring United-to-United can allow as little as 30 minutes between flights. Still there aren’t even theoretically going to be many connecting passengers flying onward from DC on flights leaving 9:45pm or later. United would have known if there were any.
I’ve boarded a flight and found a seat cushion soaked in other things, and the airline was good enough to quickly swap out the seat cushion in about 3 minutes.
This could have been handled better on a number of dimensions. And United clearly owns this. I just wonder if the notion of being ‘forced’ to sit in this isn’t quite the right way to frame it given that the family weighed the tradeoffs and made a decision, albeit one without great options provided.