Virgin Passengers Stuck on Plane for Hours
The U.S. Department of Transportation immediately jumped on the incident to support its proposals for expanded airline consumer protections, and said it would investigate what happened.
The incident started when the plane diverted to Bradley International Airport due to strong thunderstorms near Newark.
No one was able to disembark the plane because no customs and immigration workers were available to clear them at the airport, a Virgin spokeswoman told The Associated Press. The plane was carrying 300 passengers and 14 crew.
The situation became so bad after hours on the ground that some passengers reportedly started screaming and yelling, and at least three people fainted and were taken away in ambulances, passengers told CNN. The airport confirmed to AP that a few passengers were treated by paramedics.
According to passengers, the plane landed at Bradley at about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday night, and they were kept onboard until nearly 1 a.m.
"It was like four hours on the ground without any air conditioning. It was crazy. Just crazy," passenger Beth Willan told CNN. "There were babies on the plane. And we are in dark and hot. You try to be patient but people were yelling and screaming."
Watch another passenger share his ordeal here:
|Virgin, which has its U.S. headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut, said in a statement that the A340-600 jet was diverted to Bradley because of "adverse weather conditions" in the Newark area.|
"Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused. All passengers are now being transported to Newark by bus," the airline said. "The safety and welfare of our passengers and crew is of paramount importance."
An airline spokeswoman told AOL Travel that all passengers had been bused to Newark by 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Virgin also disputed how long passengers were on the plane, saying it was more like three hours, according to AP.
Temperatures at Bradley were in the mid-60s to low-70s with uncomfortable humidity while the plane was on the tarmac, Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told AP.
A new DOT rule just went into effect in April that bans U.S. carriers from making passengers wait on planes on the tarmac for longer than three hours. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said at the time the rule would be strongly enforced. Airlines that violate the rule could face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.
The DOT has been pushing to cover international airlines under the same rule.
Of the Virgin incident, LaHood said in a statement, "Recently, I proposed expanding airline passenger protections to require foreign airlines operating in the U.S. to comply with our tarmac delay rule requirements. The events reported overnight in Connecticut reinforce my belief that passengers have rights and are entitled to fair treatment when they fly. Our aviation enforcement office will be looking into the incident to determine whether any violations occurred."
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