HARTFORD, Conn. -- Passengers on a diverted Virgin Atlantic Airways flight spent more than four hours stuck in a hot, dark plane parked on a tarmac, while babies squirmed and people yelled and screamed. At least three people fainted and were taken away in ambulances.
Bad weather grounded the flight from London to Newark, N.J., at
Connecticut's Bradley International Airport on Tuesday night.Passengers told CNN they landed at about 8:20 p.m. and were kept onthe plane until about 1 a.m. Wednesday without food or water.
"It was like four hours on the ground without any airconditioning. It was crazy. Just crazy," passenger Beth Willantold CNN. "There were babies on the plane. And we are in dark andhot. You try to be patient but people were yelling and screaming."
A reporter from the Press of Atlantic City was on the flightwith members of a girls varsity crew team from Egg Harbor Township,N.J. She said the plane's electricity went out at least twice, andtwo small fires broke out underneath the plane.
The airline's London office said the 300 passengers on FlightVS001 were being bused to Newark on Wednesday morning.
"Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for theirpatience and apologise for any inconvenience cause," the airlinesaid in a statement.
Janine Doy, a Virgin spokeswoman in London, told The AssociatedPress on Wednesday that Bradley "isn't used to dealing withinternational flights" and had to call customs and immigrationofficials back to the airport Tuesday night to process thepassengers. She said the airline was forced to keep people on theplane.
"It was a situation that was beyond our control," Doy said."There were weather conditions. ... Bradley had to get customs andimmigration to the airport."
Doy was checking into reports of mechanical issues and the jetnot having the air conditioner running while it was stalled.
She said the planes have water fountains aboard, but she wasn'tsure if any food was left over after the in-flight meals had beenserved.
The three-hour limit on tarmac strandings that went into effectin April doesn't apply to foreign carriers or international flightsby U.S. carriers, although U.S. carriers are required to havecontingency plans for returning passengers waiting for prolongedperiods on planes to airport terminals.
Earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposedextending the requirement for contingency plans to foreigncarriers. The proposal included a request for comment from airlinesand the public on whether the Transportation Department should alsoextend a firm three-hour limit to international flights by U.S. andforeign carriers.
"The events reported overnight in Connecticut reinforce mybelief that passengers have rights and are entitled to fairtreatment when they fly," LaHood said in a statement. "Ouraviation enforcement office will be looking into the incident todetermine whether any violations occurred."
Ken Cast, an airport operations specialist at Bradley, saidVirgin is not one of the airport's carriers and the airline had tocall in personnel to handle the passengers.
"Being an international flight, it's not like you can letpeople wander aimlessly," Cast told the AP. "They need to beprocessed, and they need to be kept safe. Everyone has to clearcustoms.
"The rules still need to be followed," Cast said. "Everyonewas safe. They may have been uncomfortable, but they were safe.It's better to be on the ground wishing you were somewhere elsethan to be in the air wishing you were on the ground."
Cast confirmed that a few passengers who weren't feeling wellwere treated by paramedics. Details on the sick passengers weren'timmediately available.
A Bradley Airport spokesman, John Wallace, said the airportdoesn't have a lot of international flights, and customs officialsgenerally work during the day. He says customs personnel got backto the airport about an hour after being called Tuesday night.
"Everyone did the best they could under the circumstances,"Wallace said. "The process to do clearance when you have 300people is going to take a while, plus their luggage."
Bradley's only regular international passenger flights are toand from Toronto and Montreal, but the airport does have manyinternational cargo flights, Wallace said.
The Virgin Atlantic flight was diverted as showers and strongthunderstorms moved through the Northeast on Tuesday night.
Temperatures at Bradley International Airport were in themid-60s to low-70s with uncomfortable humidity at the time theVirgin plane was on the tarmac, said Charlie Foley, a meteorologistwith the National Weather Service.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times