My United Airlines flight out of Miami was delayed due to mechanical problems. I was assured that my connection to my final destination would not be in jeopardy. I raced to the gate only to be met by the United agent telling me that they would not let me board. BTW, my luggage made it on the flight. I was not the only one: the gate agent was obstinate and confrontational with another passenger that was delayed on my flight. I tested their disposition by asking would they mind comping me a meal at the airport for the inconvenience. Naturally it was 'no' and United Airlines has lost my business forever. It's been 4+ years and I have not boarded a UA flight.

What responsibility do airlines have to accommodate delayed passengers when their own flights are only slightly delayed? (i.e. bags make the transfer)

For example: In my experience US Airways will radio the connecting flight to ask the connecting flight's captain to hold in order to enable his passengers to make their connection.

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    US Airways hasn't existed for several years now (they merged into American). Some airlines may hold flights for those making connections, but that's something their operations staff determines based on what makes the most business sense for the airline, not a friendly gesture. Delaying a flight so passengers can make connections costs money and can delay yet more passengers. Jan 20, 2018 at 2:03
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    They should have offloaded your bags for security reasons. Since 9/11 it's been required for them to do that, I think.
    – gparyani
    Jan 20, 2018 at 2:39
  • @gparyani Not usually for US domestic flights. Checked baggage has been screened, so it can safely fly without you. Jan 20, 2018 at 19:01
  • I always love stories where people have blacklisted a specific carrier due to an incident like this, without realizing that every other carrier would have almost certainly acted the same in the (exact) same situation.
    – Doc
    Jan 21, 2018 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


If you arrive after the gate is closed, there is no amount of yelling and screaming that is ever going to get it re-opened, as doing so has various implications for labor contracts and safety checklists and so forth, and will result in delaying all the other people already on the aircraft and possibly those waiting to board the plane after it arrives for its next leg.

If the door was still open but the gate agent had already cleared standby passengers thinking that you weren't going to make it, I think it's also unlikely they'd tell those passengers to get off again. Certainly after last year, United knows that a confrontation over a passenger who refuses to give up a seat can go about as bad as any incident can go in terms of public relations.

And you can and will miss a connection on any airline; I slept on a bench in Terminal 2 of O'Hare on the night of Christmas Eve once thanks to American.

As for the part of your question that is not a rant, they tell you exactly what their obligations are to delayed passengers in the Contract of Carriage, Rule 24, part E, Irregular Operations. UA defines a Delay in scheduled departure or arrival of a carrier’s flight resulting in a Misconnection as an example of Irregular Operations, and carefully extracts itself from any obligations to those passengers beyond arranging alternative transportation or a refund.

Part F covers Amenities for Delayed Passengers and describes the things United can offer, but only at its option, in the event of an extensive delay caused by UA. The interpretation of extensive is presumably left to the staff. You are entirely within your rights to disagree with the staff's position and attitude, and to withhold your business as you say you have done, and to inform others about it, but as a matter of law it doesn't seem there is anything you can demand of them from a court or a regulator.

  • Agreed, bad behavior will only backfire in the end. From my point of view and experience, there seems to be a UA culture that results in a pattern of behavior that results in the CEO (Oscar Munoz) blaming the passenger for being dragged of flights bloodied and bruised. The 2015 incident where the UA agent shoves a 71 year old man to the ground is merely another symptom of the culture.
    – gatorback
    Jan 20, 2018 at 1:55
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    "If you arrive after the gate is closed, there is no amount of yelling and screaming that is ever going to get it re-opened". Not always true. I once was late to a flight from LAX to BOS because of the incoming connection being late. Gate was closed, gate agent gone, but the plane still docked facing the terminal window. There were six of us and we waved frantically at the pilot. The pilot actually radioed in and made them reopen the gate to get us on. The incompetency of the gate agents is sometimes frustrating.
    – Hilmar
    Jan 20, 2018 at 16:48
  • @Hilmar +1: It's a relief (but no surprise) that there are teams that are dedicated to superior customer service and know how to exercise discretion in judgement
    – gatorback
    Jan 20, 2018 at 23:31

To choster's excellent answer, I'll add a couple things:

  • Some countries may provide you with additional rights. That doesn't apply to your flight out of Miami, but if you're flying out of the EU, you're entitled to compensation and assistance under the terms of Regulation 261/2004.

  • United's delays and cancellations page is pretty readable. It includes their policy on paying for hotel rooms and meal reimbursement if you are delayed overnight due to a problem within the airline's control. If that policy isn't being followed, you can ask to speak to a supervisor. Other airlines will have their own policy.

  • For major delays where you've been treated poorly, the airline may, as a matter of customer service, provide some compensation if you complain to them after the fact. This would be less likely if the delay is short or due to weather or air traffic control, more likely for a mechanical problem within the airline's control that caused a lengthy delay. You can write the airline's customer relations department requesting compensation in a succinct complaint listing what happened and the extra expenses you incurred as a result, and you might get some frequent flyer miles or credit toward a future flight.

  • Excellent post: the delay was caused by a mechanical problem. They lost my business not so much because of the delay / inconvenience (sh*t happens), but because the combative disposition of the agent towards fellow passenger in my predicament (this kind of crap is inexcusable). This is not about money, perks or any other form of gain: it is about service and grace.
    – gatorback
    Jan 20, 2018 at 1:44
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    As much as you hate UA after your experience, realistically, all airlines operate like that. You were just unlucky to encounter it on an UA flight; sooner or later, you will experience the same with your new favorite airline.
    – Aganju
    Jan 20, 2018 at 14:45

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