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Bumped: Gators catch flight while travelers wait

GAINESVILLE -- The No. 15 Gators men’s basketball team, who lost a buzzer-beater to No. 12 Connecticut 65-64 Monday night in Storrs, Conn., had some issues leaving the Gainesville Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon, but eventually they caught their ride.

Unfortunately, roughly 50 stranded passengers -- travelling on the Sunday after Thanksgiving -- weren’t so lucky.

As first reported by the Gainesville Sun, Florida’s charter plane, scheduled to depart at 3 p.m., was grounded due to engine maintenance issues.

In an effort to limit delays, Delta Airlines Flight 5059 -- an Atlanta-bound commercial connection plane scheduled to depart Gainesville at 3:26 p.m. -- was converted into a private charter for the basketball team.

Delta delayed and ultimately cancelled Flight 5059, originally telling travelers there were mechanical difficulties until some of the passengers noticed the team boarding their aircraft.

The Sun reported several passengers drove to Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa to catch alternate flights, but some were stranded in Gainesville as late as Monday afternoon. 

Delta Airlines accepted full responsibility for the travelers’ inconvenience, saying “the University of Florida in no way participated in the decision-making process.”

In an official statement, Delta explained they intended to accommodate both the Florida basketball team and the private passengers but their plan fell through.

“Delta Connection partner ExpressJet, which operated both the charter as well as the regularly scheduled flight, made the operational decision to swap aircraft as the maintenance work was expected to be done quickly. Unfortunately, it was not and Delta flight 5059 was cancelled.  Delta made every effort to reaccommodate those customers on alternate flights and we apologize to the 50 customers who were inconvenienced.”

The airline also said an internal review is underway to determine “the specific circumstances around this aircraft substitution.”

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