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By Brian Nichols

In another move of sure ineptitude, United Airlines has once again ruined the travel experience of one of their customers. This time, however, the customer (or should we say, customers) didn’t even make it to the flight.

According to a report by the Watertown Daily Times, United Airlines not only ruined the chance for the small, Northern New York town of Morristown’s senior class to travel to Puerto Rico for their senior trip, but has left the class facing the potential loss of more than $20,000.

Morristown NY, a small town in Northern New York State with 20 graduating seniors raised money for a class trip to go to Puerto Rico, starting their ambitious fundraiser with just $1,100 in 2016 and ultimately raising more than the $20,000 needed for the trip to Puerto Rico.

The trip, which was scheduled to take part this past Memorial Day weekend, came to an abrupt halt when the class arrived at the Syracuse Airport for their connecting flight to New Jersey, as the students and class chaperones found that their flight had been cancelled with no explanation from United Airlines.

“We left around 1 a.m. for the two-hour bus ride to Syracuse,” said Morristown senior Haley Whitmarsh. “As we arrived, we looked on the upcoming flights and ours read ‘cancelled.’”

Miss Whitmarsh said the only reason given for the cancellation by a United Airlines representative was that there was some kind of issue with air traffic control.

“This airline never planned to reroute us, or give us another way to Newark to catch our flight,” Miss Whitmarsh said.

After hours of looking for a solution, the students and chaperones took the advice of a United Airlines employee to rent enough cars to carry 19 people and drive from Syracuse to New Jersey (a 300 mile trip) in an attempt to make their flight to Puerto Rico.  However, as they neared the airport, the group received notice that the flight had just departed, and that the class’s airline seats had been given away.

“So we were stranded in a parking lot as the chaperones searched for hours trying to find another flight to get us there, but no luck,” Miss Whitmarsh said.  “At this point I am beyond disappointed with United Airlines.  As of right now we are losing over $20,000; no refunds are being issued by the hotel excursions because we were unable to give a substantial notice of cancellation.”

Morristown Central School Superintendent Douglas McQueer said he and other class advisers and school officials are trying to recoup at least some of the students’ money, although he said it remains unclear at this point how much may be returned.

Plane tickets alone for the trip were $13,431, and the hotel cost was $8,767.20.  Approximately $25,000 was spent on the trip in total, including the addition of rental cars from Syracuse to Newark, New Jersey, according to school officials.

“It’s just ridiculous that the airline company couldn’t notify us before we got down there at four in the morning to tell us the flight was cancelled,” said Mr. McQueer.  “Had we been notified anywhere ahead of time we could have taken the kids on a bus straight to Newark.”

The school superintendent said he is remaining hopeful that they kids can at least get their airline ticket costs repaid.

“I would be very surprised if we don’t at least get the ticket prices back, I mean, it was airline failure,” Mr. McQueer said. “I honestly don’t know what is going to happen with the hotels.”

Miss Whitmarsh said she and her fellow students are heartbroken over the snafu, but she said they are also grateful to the greater Morristown community that helped raise the money for what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.

“There were students who have never traveled out of the state of New York and they were going to Puerto Rico, but not now. The word needs to get out on this airline, as I hope to stop this from happening to other people, and other classes.”

United Airlines made news earlier this Spring when Dr. David Dao, a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight, was forcibly removed from his seat and subsequently dragged off the flight prior to takeoff due to United Airlines overbooking the flight.

(The Watertown Daily Time’s article by Larry Robinson was used to help contribute to this report)

UPDATE: According to a source, United Airlines has reportedly agreed to reimburse the Morristown Central School senior class for expenses related to their failed class trip to Puerto Rico.


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