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Passenger rights group blames airport for stranding JetBlue planes

October 31, 2011 |  4:11 pm

  Jetblue

Who's to blame for Saturday's stranding of about 700 JetBlue passengers on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn.?

According to FlyersRights.org, a consumer group for airline passengers, the answer is not the airline but rather the airport.

In a statement Monday, the group's founder and executive director, Kate Hanni, said, "We believe that, had there been a mandate for the airport to have a plan, they would have been more aggressive about their situational awareness and getting folks off of those planes."

Later she said, "Time after time, airports faced with other-than-normal situations fail to respond, and the air-traveling public pays for it."

JetBlue passengers on six planes were stuck at Bradley International Airport after a snowstorm on the East Coast forced about 23 flights to be diverted to the airport.

Andrew Carter, a sports reporter who happened to be on one of the stranded JetBlue planes, reported the unpleasant details via cellphone to the South Florida Sun Sentinel: Food and water were scarce. The bathrooms were clogged and disgusting. And every 45 minutes or so, the power would go off, freaking out distressed passengers even more.

Media reports said some passengers were stuck on the tarmac for seven hours before they were finally allowed to get off, although neither JetBlue, American Airlines (which also had a plane sitting on the tarmac) nor Bradley International Airport would confirm that.

In her statement, Hanni suggested that U.S. airports look to the European Union for ideas on contingency plans. She said European Union airports often had buses to help remove stranded passengers.

In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for Bradley International Airport said: "Bradley attempted to accommodate approximately 1,000 to 1,500 passengers who were stranded here Saturday night into Sunday with cots, blankets, food and water. The airport remained open throughout the storm.  We have no further comment at this time, pending further investigation."

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-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: JetBlue planes in 2003. Credit: Stephen Chernin /Getty Images

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