A flight carrying Senator Ted Cruz was cancelled this morning due to the ongoing government shutdown.
The freshman Republican was trying to return to Texas to attend a Tea Party convention in EL Paso, but was stopped at the airport by United Airlines personnel who informed him the next direct flight doesn't leave until Thursday afternoon.
A livid Cruz was seen angrily arguing with ticket agents before finally giving up and going home. He later blasted the airline on Twitter for its "reckless scheduling," but United fought back with a statement posted on its website.
"Although air traffic controllers are still on the job, the government shutdown is expected to reduce the number of business travelers into the Washington D.C. area," the statement read. "In response we have cut back on the number of daily flights we operate into the region
"Unfortunately Mr. Cruz ignored the numerous emails and voicemails we sent him reminding him that his flight had been cancelled and showed up at the airport anyway, where he verbally abused our staff and demanded his flight be reinstated.
"Mr. Cruz needs to learn that once a policy has been decided upon, there's no point in arguing about it. Doing so is a childish waste of time and energy. We stand by our scheduling policies and the actions of our employees."
The U.S. Government entered its first government shutdown in 17 years today as Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate proved unable to agree on a compromise spending bill.
The Republicans, led by Cruz, have refused to countenance funding the government unless President Obama repeals his signature health care reform. The Democrats, unsurprisingly, have resisted that request.
Although essential services like air traffic control and payments to active duty military members will continue, millions of federal workers will be furloughed or go without pay. The resulting economic effects are expected to reach into the billions and disrupt the lives of many, including members of Congress.
"That guy was an asshole," says Elaine Dickinson, a United ticket agent who attempted to help Cruz book a new flight. "He kept screaming about how unfair the cancellation was and how he was very very mad at us. At one point he started jumping up and down and stomping his feet like a child.
"The strangest thing though was his diatribe about how airlines should think about how the decisions they make impact regular people … I found that kind of ironic coming from him."
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Senator Cruz says that United's decision to cancel the El Paso flight was "politically motivated" and designed to embarrass a "national hero."