Flight Number Flub: United/Continental Accidentally Reinstates Flights 93 and 175

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John Gress / Reuters

After a report circulated late Tuesday that United had reinstated the infamous Sept. 11 flight numbers, United/Continental spokesperson Julie King said Wednesday that the numbers had been “inadvertently reinstated” into the company’s system.

On Tuesday night, a blog dedicated to updates about airline routes reported that United Airlines was reinstating flight numbers 93 and 175, two of the flights that were hijacked and crashed on Sept. 11. United/Continental spokesperson Julie King contacted NewsFeed Wednesday morning to say that, yes, that had in fact happened, but that the reinstatement was a mistake: “We regret that these flight numbers were inadvertently reinstated in our system. We are taking immediate steps to remove them and apologize for the error.”

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Although NewsFeed had speculated that the reinstatement was a sign that the airline was ready to move forward following the May 1 death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it appears that the change was simply an oversight. As part of their merger, United and Continental have been realigning their flight numbers. Numbers 93 and 175 came up in an automated system and officials failed to notice until word started to spread. The flight numbers were not scheduled to fly the same routes as they had through Sept. 11.

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The quick retraction by United/Continental could mean that those two flight numbers may never be un-retired. Would there have been a backlash if the numbers were in fact reinstated? Or would the public and the families of the 9/11 victims have been ready to move on in this post-bin Laden world? It doesn’t seem like United/Continental wants to know the answer.