United Airlines sued for cancelling flight to Israel, lying to passengers

The suit, filed Friday, accuses the American firm of fraud, breach of contract and negligence, among other charges.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A passenger on United Airlines Flight 84 is demanding $50,000 in compensation for the cancellation of a flight earlier this month during the latest round of fighting between Israel and terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

According to the plaintiff,  United Airlines claimed at the time that the flight’s scheduled departure Saturday night was cancelled – and pushed off to the next day – because of a curfew imposed at Ben Gurion International Airport, although there was no such curfew.

“[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 lawsuit by the Ilganayev Law Firm states.

Originally, the passengers gathered at the terminal in New Jersey’s Newark Airport on August 6th were told by a staff member that the flight crew was “refusing to take the flight at this point.” The woman even repeated the point, saying, “At this time this flight is being delayed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow due to crew refusal,” a deferment of about half a day.

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A recording was made of the announcement by one of the passengers, Gil Eyal, who posted it to Twitter while asking tongue-in-cheek, “Wonder why the crew couldn’t think about refusing before dragging hundreds of people to the airport.”

Later, United put out an announcement, featured on its website, citing a different reason for the delay.

“Your flight has been delayed until 5:45 on August 7 because of a curfew at Tel Aviv’s airport is restricting planes from landing, delaying your flight.”

The flight was going to take off during Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, dubbed Operation Breaking Dawn, in which the terrorist organization launched almost 1,200 rockets towards Israel.

Despite United Airline’s claim, no curfew was ever put in place at Israel’s international airport, a Ben-Gurion spokesman said.

The legal summons postulates that United Airlines made this fictitious claim because it feared losing money.

“Clearly, United did not want to be honest with its passengers that the flight was delayed due to the pilot’s refusal to fly because that would leave them solely liable to all of their passengers,” it said.

Under the airline’s policy, United Airlines will not compensate passengers if flights are delayed for reasons out of its control.

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Passengers at the time confirmed that they received nothing from United except a $40 meal voucher. No overnight accommodations were made for them, and they were denied access to their luggage. Those passengers, including the plaintiff, who decided to rebook on an El Al flight that flew to Israel normally several hours later, were not given a refund for their tickets.

At the time, United Airlines denied the company was at fault, telling the Post upon inquiry that passengers were offered hotel rooms for their emergency overnight stay. The airline also changed its story again, saying that maintenance issues were the cause of the deferred flight.

Before settling on the curfew claim, United’s customer service also told the plaintiff that bad weather was the reason for the delay.

A different United Airlines flight, UA90, took off from the same airport to Israel that same day.