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Durango passenger receives mixed answers about United Airlines flight delay

Explanations included weather conditions, technical issues and de-icing shortage
The Durango-La Plata County Airport, seen here in 2017. Mark Morgan of Durango said he receives mixed answers about a delayed United Airlines flight on Thursday. (Durango Herald file)

Mark Morgan was gearing up for his son’s college graduation in Louisiana on Thursday morning when his travel plans suddenly hit a snag.

United Airlines Flight 1365 from Durango-La Plata County Airport was delayed 3 1/2 hours.

Delays happen, especially during the holiday season. But it’s the dishonesty that infuriates him, Morgan said.

Morgan, Durango’s City Attorney, said crews told him the delay was due to low visibility at Denver International Airport. However, his wife “easily flew from Colorado Springs into Denver while they were claiming it was shut down.”

Crews then said they had finished de-icing the plane, but “everyone knows they didn’t do any more (deicing),” Morgan said.

A spokesperson for United Airlines said in an email to The Durango Herald the delay – stated to be one hour and 57 minutes on United Airlines’ online flight tracker – was due to low visibility in Denver because of fog.

Morgan said he doesn’t buy that explanation because he witnessed crew members arriving at Gate 1 at DRO. He sent a timestamped photo at 6:45 a.m. of crew members inside the gate and said crews are supposed to be on site 30 minutes prior to boarding.

The flight was scheduled to depart at 7:20 a.m. but didn’t leave until 9:10 a.m., according to United Airlines’ flight tracker. Morgan said the plane didn’t take to the air until approximately 10:47 a.m.

“Wheels up…..finally,” he said in a text message.

Durango resident Mark Morgan said he received several different explanations for why a United Airlines flight was delayed out of Durango-La Plata County Airport Thursday morning. He doesn’t buy them. (Courtesy of Mark Morgan)

“Just to add to the lies, this was on the app claiming technical issues,” he said in another message, which included a screenshot of a flight status report.

The report says Flight 1365 departed late because “we had to address a technical issue on your plane.”

He said he missed a connecting flight in Denver, and United Airlines tried to charge him $1,000 for two seats on a new connecting flight, which he declined.

He said passengers should be compensated due to the delay not being weather-related like they were told.

“I am going to miss the graduation dinner party we planned for weeks but should make the ceremony tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m.,” he said about his son’s graduation.

He said based on his experience as a pilot, it appears the flight crew was late and missed their scheduled window to fly into Denver, “so all the delays are getting rescheduled into a very busy Denver.”

He said he’s been a private pilot for four years with 350 hours under his wing. He bought his plane to fly back and forth from Durango, Louisiana and Colorado Springs. But his plane doesn’t have deicing capabilities, which is why he was flying commercial on Thursday.

DRO Aviation Director Tony Vicari said on Friday the delay followed a snowstorm that dumped about 5 inches of snow on Wednesday, and an American Airlines departure to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was also delayed by about two hours and 40 minutes.

From his discussions with United Airlines, Vicari said the delay was attributed to snow removal and deicing the plane.

“These planes arrived the previous night and sit … and collect all of that snow accumulation,” he said. “So it can result in delays which are admittedly very frustrating for passengers. It's fully understandable. But in many ways, that's also just kind of part and parcel to winter operations at any airport.”

Vicari said low visibility conditions were reported in Denver throughout the morning, but he can’t speak to any role they might have played because he wasn’t on the ground in Denver. As for the airfield itself, conditions were clear in the early morning and there were no limitations or challenges on the runway.

As to what United Airlines communicated to its passengers, that’s the airline’s responsibility, Vicari said.

Vicari said reports about delays can obscure people’s perceptions of the airport’s overall reliability, but flight statistics over time show the on-time flight departure rate out of DRO is 82%, 4.5 points higher than the national average and higher than airports in Denver, Albuquerque, Montrose, Steamboat Springs and other locations.

“We'd love them to be 100%, but the travel industry naturally has disruptions given the amount of moving pieces and a high focus on safety in the aviation environment. Inherently, there's gonna be something less than 100%,” he said.


A photo of the airfield at Denver International Airport Thursday morning shows a damp runway below partially cloudy skies. (Courtesy of Mark Morgan)

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