Stranded Passengers Cry Foul When Bumped for Gators Basketball Team

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Delta today apologized to customers after its regional partner cancelled their flight and instead let the University of Florida men's basketball team use their plane to get to a game.

Delta's partner Sky Express on Sunday swapped two planes at Gainesville Regional Airport, letting the team's charter flight take off at 3 p.m. and leaving 50 passengers with tickets for Atlanta, but stuck with a plane that had a maintenance problem with one of its two engines, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told ABC News today.

Durant said the Gators basketball team was allowed to take the working plane to get to its game in Connecticut because the Atlanta flight was scheduled to leave 30 minutes later and Sky Express thought it could fix the engine issue by then, Durrant said.

But the airline did not fix the problem in time, leaving customers stranded in Gainesville on one of the busiest travel days of the year, he said. They had to reschedule their travel, he added.

"Unfortunately, an operational decision with good intentions did not play out as was intended," Durrant said.

Delta compensated and apologized to passengers on the fully booked flight, although some had to wait until Monday to fly out of Gainesville, Durrant said. He did not know what the compensation entailed.

A spokesman for Gainesville Regional Airport, Laura Aguiar, referred questions about the incident to Delta.

The Gators' flight did take off on time, Durrant said. It landed at Bradley International Airport, in Windsor Locks, Conn., according to University of Florida Athletic Association spokesman Denver Parler.

The team was traveling ahead of a Monday game against the University of Connecticut, Parler told ABC News. The Gators lost that game, 65-64.

Durrant said Sky Express did not make the decision to swap planes because one set of passengers happened to be a basketball team.

"We want to do what's best for all of our customers," he said.

The basketball team was unaware that the swapped planes would result in the commercial flight's cancellation, Durrant said.

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