Storm-Plagued Flight Finally Leaves for Tokyo

From Associated Press

The poster plane for snow-stranded travelers, Toyko-bound United Flight 801, finally took off Wednesday after one last two-hour delay at Kennedy International Airport.

The departure ended a two-day odyssey that began Tuesday when the Boeing 747 pulled away from the terminal and spent the next 7 1/2 hours either taxiing or stuck in a snowbank, with all 264 passengers on board.

"We're close to rioting," passenger Tanya Clark said Tuesday when she telephoned from the plane.

She said the captain had threatened to have unruly passengers arrested. But despite the long wait, no one created any major problems.

When the plane got onto the runway at 5:50 p.m. EST Tuesday--2 hours and 20 minutes late--the crew discovered engine problems. All the gates were full so they couldn't unload passengers. Instead, they taxied to a hangar for repairs. By then, Asian curfew restrictions made takeoff impossible.

Another hour passed before the flight finally headed toward a gate. Then the jet went nose-first into a snowbank. Passengers finally returned to the terminal at 1:25 a.m.

United attempted to pacify the grounded fliers with food and drink during the delay, and put them up in hotels until the Wednesday flight. About half had been trying to leave for Japan since Sunday, when the blizzard shut the airport.

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