One middle school teacher in Minnesota is speaking out against American Airlines, claiming that the carrier wrongfully bumped him from a recent flight home from an out-of-state school trip, sending 16 middle school students home alone without him. Reps for the airline, meanwhile, allege that the educator volunteered and was compensated for his willingness to deplane.
On April 5, Mark Westpfahl and a group of youngsters from St. Paul’s Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet School were slated to fly back to the North Star State via Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after a fun-filled, five-day trip to Washington, D.C.
Soon after arriving at the air hub, Westpfahl reportedly received the news that American Airlines had overbooked the flight back to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and there was not room for him on the aircraft, the Star Tribune reports.
The American studies teacher told the outlet that an airline staffer told him that his name had been “randomly pulled” to be taken off the flight, and nothing else could be done.
Though Westpfahl led the D.C. trip with another chaperone who was able to fly back with the 16 students, the situation was less than ideal.
According to the Tribune, American Airlines officials inquired if any other passengers would be willing to take a later flight, but no one volunteered — reps for the carrier reportedly did not clarify that a large group of minors would have to fly without their teacher.
“I'm not so much worried about getting to my destination. Sure, it would be really nice to see my own family again… and I understand how airlines overbook, and what procedures are, but I just really wish they would have reconsidered, knowing that I'm traveling [with] 16 students,” Westpfahl opined on Twitter.
Commenters largely agreed, describing the situation as "ridiculous" and "not ok.”
“I’d be so livid if my child was on a trip and this happened to one of the chaperones,” one Twitter user chimed in.
Though the St. Paul’s students ultimately arrived home safe in Minnesota, and Westpfahl flew back the following day after “two ½ hours of sleep at an airport motel and a morning redeye,” as per the Tribune, the teacher is now arguing that the airline’s amends do not suffice, and that the situation needs to be rectified in a larger sense.
“I feel like they are apologizing... but at the same time, don't really apologize. I'm not as concerned about rerouting me w/a layover, or that it delayed me,” the educator said. “I'm more concerned that you pulled a chaperone of 16 middle schoolers.”
Reps for American Airlines, meanwhile, have offered a different account of the evening, and claim that Westpfahl volunteered to be bumped from the flight.
“According to our records, and after we consulted with our team in Washington D.C. as well, he volunteered. As part of that process, he received compensation as a volunteer in addition to American paying for his hotel accommodation for the night and meals,” a spokesperson told Fox News on April 12. “We always seek volunteers before denying anyone boarding.”
“Our customer relations team has also reached out to him directly regarding his concerns,” they added.