Stuck On The Tarmac In The Dark With No Food, Water, Or Air
Passengers on a Virgin Atlantic
flight from London to Newark were forced to
endure nearly four hours in miserable conditions when
their flight was diverted to Connecticut due to bad
weather. The flight landed at Bradley International
Airport, which is not normally served by Virgin Atlantic,
and was not equipped to handle the 300 international
passengers arriving on the A340. When the airplane's generator
gave out, the temperature inside the cabin quickly climbed to what
one passenger said felt like nearly 100 degrees.
Multiple media sources including The London Daily Mail and the
New Jersey Star-Ledger report that the flight, its 300 passengers
and 14 crew, were diverted to Bradley International Airport near
Hartford, CT because of poor weather conditions in Newark. The
flight landed about 2020 EDT, but with no gate to go to, the
passengers and crew were held on the plane until about 0100. It was
dark and hot, and there was reportedly no food and little
water. There were reports of passengers fainting and falling ill on
the plane while they waited to be allowed into the terminal. Some
were reportedly administered oxygen due to heat stress. As could be
expected, adult tempers flared and uncomfortable children
complained as they do in such situations.
Additional customs and immigration personnel had to be brought
to the airport to clear the passengers into the U.S. At one point,
the pilots asked for permission to allow the passengers to deplane,
and a customs official reportedly told them they would be arrested
if they got off the plane. The Associated Press reports that a
Virgin Atlantic spokesman said in an e-mail that the flight's
captain was told by customs officials that the passengers had to
stay on board until more officials from immigration arrived ...
which took more than two hours. There was only one Customs official
at Bradley International when the A340 landed
The passengers were eventually taken by bus to Newark Wednesday
In an official statement, Virgin Atlantic said it would like to
"thank passengers for the patience and apologize for any
inconvenience caused," and offered the passengers vouchers for use
on a future flight. A VA spokesperson who would not give her name
told the Daily Mail the situation was beyond the airline's control.
Bradley International operations specialist Ken Cast said "Everyone
was safe. It's better to be on the ground wishing you were
someplace else than in the air wishing you were on the ground."
New rules governing tarmac delays
do not apply to international flights, but the incident has
prompted FlyersRights.org Executive Director Kate Hanni to suggest
that they should. "Given the horrific, inhumane and dangerous
situation that took place on the Virgin Atlantic Flight last night,
DOT must step in immediately to include international flights in
the 3 Hour and Air Conditioning Rules," Hanni said in a statement.
"Numerous passengers were hospitalized after being exposed for over
four hours to temperatures well over 100 degrees- we are fortunate
there were no fatalities."
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that DOT secretary Ray LaHood
said in a statement “The events reported overnight in
Connecticut reinforce my belief that passengers have rights and are
entitled to fair treatment when they fly."
But one industry consultant said the rule is flawed. Michael
Boyd, a consultant from Denver, said the incident shows that
airlines don't always have the option of getting people off a plane
within the three hour window.