More on the Carol Gotbaum Case
For those who've been following the case of Carol Gotbaum, the New York woman who died in police custody at the Phoenix airport after being denied boarding on her connecting flight to Tucson, here's more. The Post Outlook section, if you recall, carried a piece by freelancer A.L. Bardach that tied Gotbaum's death to the common airline practice of overbooking. US Airways responded with a letter to the editor in the Oct. 19 Post. Now Bardach has a reponse of her own.
Response of A.L. Bardach to US Airways Letter to the Editor
My Outlook opinion column about Carol Gotbaum's last day at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport was based on a front-page New York Times article on October 6, The Arizona Republic's continuing coverage of the incident, and other national media reports.
The Times article reported that "Ms. Gotbaum checked in at 1:05 for a 1:30 flight, according to the police report, but the plane was overbooked and her seat had already been given up." The 25-minute gap meant Ms. Gotbaum was not late under the airlines' 15-minute policy. I made repeated attempts over three days before my column ran to contact both US Airways and Mesa Airlines to confirm the reported times and airline procedures. Both airlines declined comment- even to confirm or deny her flight times, leaving the report that Ms. Gotbaum was not late unrefuted.
It is unfortunate that US Airways would not discuss the facts with me. If they had explained that the flight had been scheduled to depart at 1:13--a fact that has subsequently been verified -- I obviously would have included that in my column. It is interesting to note, however, that, Ms. Gotbaum was offered a free ticket, which is the protocol for passengers denied boarding, not for those who arrive too late.
US Airways also now says that Ms. Gotbaum was denied boarding on the second flight at 2:58 because "she arrived for that flight with someone else's boarding pass." But they ignore the undisputed fact that that flight was overbooked as well. Apparently Ms. Gotbaum had arranged to swap with another passenger who was willing to give her his seat. Why the airline did not accommodate her and print out a boarding pass for her at that point is one of the questions that remains to be answered.
The other part of my column was based upon a court complaint filed by my husband and me against US Airways and Mesa in April 2007. A six-page letter that detailed our own travel saga was sent to both Mesa's and US Airways' CEOs. Neither responded or refuted anything in our letter. A few weeks later, a representative from their offices phoned us and offered us a settlement.
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