An insensitive and inexcusable mistake or an honest oversight that was quickly corrected?
As United and Continental merge into a single entity, they continue to take steps to align the operations of the two airlines. UA and CO recently merged flight numbers such that any overlap was expunged. Somehow in this process, United flights 93 and 175 were re-introduced.
Flight 175 originated at Boston’s Logan International Airport and was headed for Los Angeles International Airport before being hijacked and flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11. Flight 93 took off from Newark’s Liberty International Airport and crashed in a Pennsylvania field near Shanksville after a heroic attempt by passengers to wrest control of the plane from the hijackers.
Continental still used flights 93 and 175 and someone forgot to take these flight numbers out when the United and Continental flight numbers were recalibrated. Frequent flyers quickly took note and UA was bombarded with outrage. Posting on their Facebook page, UA issued this response:
We discovered that flight numbers 93 and 175 were inadvertently reinstated in our future schedule. We regret the error, apologize and are taking immediate steps to remove the numbers from our system.
Listening to Master Executive Council Chairman Wendy Morse (representing United for the Air Line Pilot’s Association and a lady I have flown with before), you would think that UA perpetrated the 9/11 attacks themselves:
Their insensitivity and unconscionable disrespect of these sacred flight numbers and their meaning to the employees of United Airlines and the families of those who lost their lives nearly 10 years ago are not only alarming, but reprehensible.
“How could these flight numbers have been ‘inadvertently reinstated’ as the company indicates? The pilots of United Airlines expect accountability of how these flight numbers were considered in the first place.
She further alleged that United’s actions "demonstrates a severe disconnect from right and wrong."
Some argue that 9/11 happened nearly a decade ago and it is time that UA brings back those flight numbers. I disagree. Not to compare 9/11 to professional sports, but numbers are retired out of respect for what they represent. In the case of basketball, the Chicago Bulls retired #23 out of respect for Michael Jordan, perhaps the great basketball player of all time. Similarly, I think it was right and proper for UA to retire flight numbers 93 and 175 out of respect for the passengers and crew onboard and what those flights represented.
But I think Captain Morse is overacting. There is no question that UA should have been more careful: its actions were sloppy and they should be criticized for what happened. But I have to believe their mistake was an honest one and a mistake that was quickly acknowledged and corrected. What more do the pilots want?
And I just cannot in good conscience label a flight number "sacred."