Pearl Harbor survivor bumped from Hawaii flight

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(CNN) — Nearly 72 years after surviving the attacks from the menacing skies over Pearl Harbor, Ewalt Shatz found himself fighting another battle: this time, just to make it to the islands.

The 90-year-old former sailor told CNN affiliate KHNL that he had intended to fly Wednesday from Los Angeles International Airport to Honolulu, Hawaii, to take part in a memorial on Saturday at Pearl Harbor in honor of more than 2,400 who died in the Japanese air attacks in 1941.

But he was bumped from his United Airlines flight.

“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 said it wasn’t at fault.

“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. “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.”

But Shatz, who was flying alone, said an agent told him that only two customers were taken off the flight, and the only other person he saw was a man in a wheelchair, according to KHNL.

He was rebooked on an American Airlines flight eight hours later for Maui, where Hawaiian Airlines representatives greeted him and escorted him to a first-class seat aboard a flight to Honolulu. He arrived there shortly before midnight.

Shatz’s story had preceded him on social media, and he was met at the airport by dozens of people, most of them in uniform.

“We’re here to show our respect for him,” said Rex Parmelee, chief Navy counselor. “It’s a tremendous honor; that’s why we take it so serious, because heritage is huge.”

Shatz enjoyed 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 airline ran into blowback on social media, where one person wrote, “United should be ASHAMED!”

“United has just lost another loyal customer,” said another.

And this: “Will never fly United again.”

On December 7, 1941, Shatz was an 18-year-old seaman aboard the USS Patterson. Last year, he was honored for having shot down a Japanese plane on with a .50-caliber machine gun — the first time he had used one — during the attack.

He said he had not heard from United since the incident and planned never to fly on the airline again.

Shatz is one of 50 Pearl Harbor survivors and 10 World War II veterans expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony, which is slated to begin at 7:45 a.m. (12:45 p.m. ET) and last 90 minutes, said Eileen Martinez, a spokeswoman for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the USS Arizona Memorial.

At the end of the ceremony, current enlisted military personnel will form an honor cordon through which the WWII veterans, Pearl Harbor survivors and civilian witnesses in attendance will walk or, in some cases, ride in wheelchairs, Martinez said. “As they make their way out, the military salutes them,” she said. “It’s an act of honoring those that have sacrificed, that have served and that are so precious to us.

“Of course, they are in their twilight years, so now is the time to honor them.”

Some 2,000 to 2,500 of the more than 70,000 military forces who survived the attacks on Oahu are still alive, she said.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • David

    Once again United drops the ball. Their customer service is in the toilet. We will never fly them. They were to assist my mother on to a flight and left her at the wrong gate, not familiar with the airport when she made it in line they would not let her board. You have to make arrangements prior to flight to have assistance which we did. Their site says assistance is to insure the client boards the flight. They never did get her aboard any other flight, at 2:30a she took a 4 hour cab back home. My wife and I waited over and hour and a half to talk to someone about it and when I brought that up they dismissed it as if it was my problem. They refunded our fare and promised future tickets but never delivered.
    They have no business dealing with people.

  • Cri Watson

    Just plain stupidity. What has happened to caring,loving people working? Now it seems they are all grinches>>>>

  • Julia

    Unprofessional and should be ashamed. If they don’t care for the elderly, why would I trust them to take me 20,000+ feet into the air? They owe Ewalt a public apology. I’ll not use them again.

  • Shirley

    I know I will never fly United. The only thing they think about is the almighty dollar. Well they can shove their owners, and planes and customer service where the sun don’t shine. They should be ashamed and humiliated on how they treated a veteran. He, and all veterans, and the ones that didn’t survive, gave their all so United could act like the JACKASSES they are.

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