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Virgin Atlantic passengers stuck on plane (at least it saved them from New Jersey)

How to make a trip to Newark, N.J., even worse? Get stuck on the grounded plane for over four hours.

Flight from hell? Sounded like it.

Passengers aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight were stuck on the ground in Connecticut for more than four hours Tuesday night without air conditioning.

Things got so bad that people started fainting, yelling, ambulances showed up ... it wasn’t fun.

One passenger told CNN: "It was like four hours on the ground without any air conditioning. It was crazy. Just crazy."

"There were babies on the plane. And we are in dark and hot. You try to be patient, but people were yelling and screaming," she said.

At least three people were carted off in ambulances after passing out on the plane.  

Virgin, of course, is sorry for the incident. The airline said bad weather was....

...responsible for the plane being diverted to Connecticut's Bradley International Airport.

The flight, which originated in London, was supposed to end up in Newark. So Virgin ended up busing some of the passengers there.

Why wouldn't the airline let people off the plane?

Virgin spokeswoman Janine Doy told the Associated Press that the airport "isn't used to dealing with international flights" and proper processing of the passengers had to be carried out.

"It was a situation that was beyond our control," Doy said. "There were weather conditions. ... Bradley had to get customs and immigration to the airport."

So, the feds should slap Virgin down, right?  After all, Barbara Boxer's "Airline Passenger Bill of Rights" law was passed in April. The measure stipulates that passengers cannot be detained on a grounded plane for more than three hours, or the airline will be subject to huge fines.

Sadly, no.  

Just like the bad guys in the "Lethal Weapon" movies could smirk at Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and say, "Diplomatic immunity," so can Virgin. It was an international flight. Same rules don't apply.

"That is a U.S. regulation," an airline spokesman told CNN. "We are a European carrier, so we operate under European law. We haven't infringed any rules."

-- Jimmy Orr

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Photo: Scene from "Airplane!" Credit: YouTube.

Comments () | Archives (4)

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At Bradley International Airport the Virgin Air passengers ought to have been immediately transferred to an empty plane, or even two or three smaller planes if needed, and thus given food, water, and air-conditioning. Then at least they would not be in so excellent a possition to sue at law for their lives being unnecessarily endangered. Had compassion been part of the make-up of those in positions to decide what to do to hold the diverted international passengers until the appropriate airport personnel showed up to process them-- had the need to "process" them not been considered akin to "processing" beans and barley-- then those who at that time were in direct charge of Bradley International Airport would have noticed and made the right and humane decisions. Hopefully, those who shall now be put into the positions that they held.. before opening the airport to legal charges, shall do a better job of getting people immediately removed from a smoking plane when need be.
Coronella Keiper, in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Farmlands

"That is a U.S. regulation," an airline spokesman told CNN. "We are a European carrier, so we operate under European law. We haven't infringed any rules."

Sheer grotesque arrogance. How typical of airlines in the world.

Coronella, at what point were the passengers "unecessarily endangered?" I don't see where the aircraft was suffering mechanical or any unsafe condition. You also mention a "smoking plane" - where did that news report come from? I think you made that up for drama(?). Bradley is not set up recieve a large load of international passengers and the prosessing does take time and that is unfortunate.
What people like you don't get is that sometimes, rarely in fact, aircraft MUST divert for various reasons. Aircraft of any size carry enough fuel for the time they need to make destination plus about 45 minutes extra for unforseen circumstances. Once you start getting into the reserve fuel you really are out of options and must go SOMEWHERE. As far as no air conditioning I completely understand. As a pilot myself for almost 20 years I understand the frustrations that passengers have because I have seen poor treatment and this isn't it! Poor treatment is intentional and this, my dear, was not intentional.

Mike, in another article on the web, a passenger is reported as stating that smoke was coming from underneath, and they could see it, and it was frightening to them, the passengers.
They were endangered in that for many people, not having water and/or food is life threatening. They had analyzed the amount of time they would be in transit. If no extra food was on the plane, then they ought to have been taken to another plane temporarily. Ditto for the lack of oxygen, the lack of air conditioning. Life threatening and even apt to have lasting repercussions on their health. They ought to have been moved, even if the plane hadn't been smoking.
Coronella Keiper in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Farmlands


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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