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World War II veteran Ewalt Shatz, a 90-year old veteran, booked a flight to attend the Pearl Harbor commemoration on Saturday. He paid United Airlines for a seat to get to Honolulu, Hawaii.
But United Airlines blamed “inclement weather” and the need to carry extra fuel as the reason for refusing to fly Mr. Shatz to Hawaii. This was his reaction to UA’s treatment:
“I thought that they just overbooked the deal and they were trying to get rid of a couple of customers, because somebody had my seat, and that’s what made me mad, because I paid for that seat, and somebody else was sitting in it.”
United Airlines gave its side of the story.
“Severe weather in the path of United flight 1226 required the flight to carry additional fuel and reduce the number of passengers on board by 41,” said Charles Hobart, a spokesman for the airline, in an e-mailed statement to Fox News 4. “United agents in Los Angeles noticed Mr. Shatz in the lobby attempting to check in for the flight and, after approaching him and offering assistance, proactively rebooked him on the best available alternate flight. We look forward to following up with Mr. Shatz and having an opportunity to welcome him back.”
According to CNN affiliate KHNL, Shatz said an agent looked into the flight and only two passengers were ultimately removed – himself and a disabled man in a wheelchair.
Regardless of United Airlines’ excuses for refusing to carry the 90-year-old vet Mr. Shatz to his commemoration after serving his nation admirably, he should have been the last one bumped from the flight. No one traveling on vacation to Hawaii who could respite for a few hours in California?
This is about respect and judgment, and what United Airlines did doesn’t smack of it. Shatz was re-routed eight-hours later on an American Airlines flight to Maui. Then Hawaaiian Airlines went out of its way to seat Shatz first-class for his last leg. And in the meantime, he became a social media star.
Many reacted with anger at United Airlines for its lack of respect for Mr. Shatz, and he was was met by dozens of people at the Honolulu airport, many of them in uniform.
“We’re here to show our respect for him,” Rex Parmelee, a Navy counselor, told Fox News 4. “It’s a tremendous honor; that’s why we take it so serious, because heritage is huge.”
Shatz appreciated the support. “Everybody wanted a picture with me, and they were making out like I was a hero, but I’m not, really,” Shatz said. “It was embarrassing in a way, but I liked it.”
The 90-year old veteran had been an 18-year old seaman aboard the USS Patterson 72 years prior, and he was honored for shooting down a Japanese plane with a .50-caliber machine gun. Shatz was part of a group of 50 survivors and 10 World War II veterans who gathered on Saturday to remember the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.