No Food, Dirty Toilets, High Frustration At AUS
Last Friday, December 29, wasn't a good day to be a passenger on
American Airlines' Flight 1348 embarking from San Francisco.
Bound for Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where it was
supposed to land at 11:35 am, storms forced
a diversion to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
(AUS) - where it sat on the tarmac for more than eight hours, with
no food, dirty toilets and a growing storm within -- one of
"You know, we've got kids here," said Tom Dickson, of Los Altos,
CA, by cell phone from the grounded plane. "My 5-year-old daughter
has been on here for 11 hours, and there are younger kids than her
"I fly a lot domestically and internationally," added Dickson, "and
I've never seen anything like this. We've been told several things,
and none of it has happened. Even when they tell us something, we
can't have any faith in it." Dickson, his wife and daughter were
headed for Belize.
Even though passengers tried to stay calm, confusion reigned.
"The bathrooms have gone from a gas station to, 'What's the last
concert you've been to?'" said Andy Welch, of Linn Creek, MO.
Jeff Hunt, who grew up in Fort Worth was traveling to see his
family, said many passengers didn't even have breakfast.
A spokesman for AUS said that although he could not comment on
individual airplanes, he was able to verify that four flights from
California were stranded on the tarmac from about 1 pm until late
The American Airlines pilot for
flight 1348, who declined to give his name, said Friday's incident
was a first for him. He added three other planes were also grounded
because all of Bergstrom's gates were full.
He told his beleaguered passengers: "If I had a place to physically
put the plane, I would do it."
It was about 8:15 pm that the pilot took it upon himself to taxi
the plane toward the terminal. Passengers were able to deplane at
9:04 pm, after nearly 12 hours on the plane.
In all, American canceled 428 flights Friday, with 222 out of DFW.
Of the 87 diverted, 20 were later canceled officials said. In
addition, the airline canceled about 100 flights for
American Airlines spokesman Andy Backover said the 87 diversions
were double the usual number during a weather event and came at the
busiest time of the year for travel. American was "trying its best
to get [the passengers] to their destination," he added. He
wouldn't say whether the airline has a policy for the amount of
time that passengers can spend on grounded airplanes.
According the American Airlines Web site, during delays,
cancellations, and diversion events, "American Airlines and
American Eagle will provide customers at the airport and onboard an
affected aircraft with timely and frequent updates regarding known
delays, cancellations, and diversions and will strive to provide
the best available information concerning the duration of delays
and, to the extent available, the flight's anticipated departure
It was back in 2001 that Northwest Airlines agreed to pay $7.1
million to more than 7,000 passengers forced to wait hours on
grounded planes at the Detroit airport during a 1999 storm. The
airline admitted no wrongdoing in settling the class-action
In that case, some passengers waited 11 hours on board with no
food and in some cases, were subject to overflowing toilets.
Following the incident, Northwest changed some of its emergency
procedures with a policy that passengers must not remain on
grounded planes for more than three hours.