Passengers Stuck In Plane For 9 Hours, Only 45 Miles From Destination

Yesterday, an Air India flight from Mumbai to London’s Heathrow airport got diverted because of bad weather to nearby Gatwick airport. Since the passengers were only 45 miles away from their intended destination, the airline obviously let them off the plane rather than sit in cramped quarters for nine hours. Oh wait — no it didn’t.

According to news reports, rather than give passengers — some of whom had been already been traveling for 10 hours — the option of deplaning at Gatwick, Air India kept the passengers on the plane while waiting for conditions at Heathrow to improve.

“The plane was diverted and we were given to understand that the weather would clear in one and a half hours,” an anonymous airline staffer tells the BBC. “It was one and a half hours and they would be back in 90 minutes, so it didn’t make sense to deplane the passengers at that time… Then at around 11.30am, we heard the slot was only in the afternoon, at 1.30pm…. By that time, we decided the crew was not supposed to operate beyond a certain time, so we rushed a crew from Heathrow. It took them time to reach Gatwick.”

Which means the flight didn’t at Heathrow until around 5:30 p.m., at which point the plane had been at Gatwick for about nine hours.

During the downtime on the tarmac, local police boarded the plane, not to offer relief to the irate stranded passengers, but to calm them down.

A staffer at Gatwick tells the BBC, “We did everything we could… We can’t do anything with the passengers if they don’t disembark… We went over and above what we should do. We gave them water. They didn’t want us to provide food because they used their own caterers who are at Heathrow.”

Air India: ‘Creeping delays’ stranded plane at Gatwick [BBC via USA Today]

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  1. Power Imbalance says:

    “We gave them water. ”

    • mauispiderweb says:

      How humane of them.

      • Power Imbalance says:

        Yeah, I don’t see what the problem is, they got water and if they got out of line then the police were there to beat them. Gezz these people are high maintenance. Next people will be wanting air to breath…

    • Murph1908 says:

      Your comment chastises the airport, when it was the airline that was to blame in this case.

      Gatwick gave them water, and offered other assistance.

      Blame Air India for holding the passengers hostage.

  2. IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

    meh, the usual crap airline service

    also lol on the “deplaning” i’m going to start dehousing, detraining, debussing and decarring from now on

    • shepd says:

      I used to think it was a stupid word, but the antonym was first used in 1941, enplane. So it seems it actually fits. And deplane since 1923. So… I give them this one.

      However, disembark is still acceptable, irregardless* of what anyone tells you.

      * – Used on purpose.

      • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

        i know its real but its one of those novelty words like “hoovering” we already have a plentiful selection of words for “leaving that place” there is no need to say we left an airplane, it ought to be implicit by the previous sentences, we would need deplane if there was a need to suddenly make someone aware that we used to be on a plane but are now leaving

    • JeremieNX says:

      On Amtrak, the instruction video says “Detrain”. De-insert-conveyance-here is a real word ;P

  3. dolemite says:

    After 8+ hours stuck on a cramped plane:
    “I demand to be released! I demand freedom from this smelly hot plane! I have to crap!”
    “Here’s some water, and these policemen will make sure you drink it in an orderly fashion”.
    “Ahhh…you’ve done all you could do to sooth my completely rational behavior. Thank you.”

  4. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    The thought of them rushing crew from Heathrow to Gatwick so they can fly from Gatwick to Heathrow while the passengers just sit there is both horrible and hilarious to me.

    • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

      It’s all good, if you show it speeded up with ‘Yakety Sax’ playing.

  5. Cat says:

    We went over and above what we should do. We gave them water. They didn’t want us to provide food because they used their own caterers who are at Heathrow.”

    Could I get some bread with my water? Please? I ain’t had bread in but 3 weeks…

    Seriously, WTF? I would have to kill someone if I was stuck 9 hours on a plane for no god damned reason whatsoever.

    • HSVhockey says:

      I don’t know how to even react to this. I know I’m at the same level as you, but I can’t formulate what would be the proper response to the imprisonment of these people.

    • grendyll says:

      Have to agree. At least if the police escorted me out, I’d be off the plane.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Again, don’t blame Gatwick. Blame Air India.

      Gatwick provided assistance, and offered more. Air India made the decision to hold the passengers hostage.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    Shouldn’t the passengers have been happy about the situation? I mean, they probably had more “living” space per passenger on the plane than if they had been back in the slums of Mumbai.

  7. gerrylum says:

    I wonder if false imprisonment charges could possibly be filed in situations like this?

    • mentok1982 says:

      I think that would apply.

      They let local police onto the flight huh? As soon those policemen got on the plane they should have been forced to remain on the plane for the entire wait. I bet they would have freaked out just as mush as the people they were trying to calm.

  8. Dallas_shopper says:

    Air India has some of the worst customer service ratings in the industry for a reason.

    I would advise people to fly BA in and out of the UK. They’re by far the best airline I’ve flown with. YMMV.

    • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

      I came here to say this, too. Air India has had a multitude of problems in the recent past, most of which stem from the Indian government (Air India is the state carrier, and mostly-gov’t-owned) being rife with corruption and petty squabbling between the individual branches. Plus, the leadership of Air India is horribly incompetent. Here’s one example: http://avindia.blogspot.com/2009/07/air-india-spends-rs-12-crore-on.html

      Anyway, the bottom line is to avoid them like the plague.

  9. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Airline is going to face a lawsuit here. They violated at least two of the European passenger rights laws.

    • Ihmhi says:

      I’m pretty sure I read about America imposing a 3-hour limit or something like that… ah, here it is:

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/22/wait-on-plane-limited-to-3-hours/?page=all

      “Airline passengers will have the right to food, water and working toilets when a plane is stuck on the tarmac and can return to the terminal after a three-hour delay under new regulations announced by the Obama administration.

      The final rule, published Monday in the Federal Register, applies only to domestic flights, and imposes a fine of $27,500 per passenger for airlines failing to follow the new guidelines that take effect in 120 days. “

      I have no idea why it would only apply to domestic flights… customs issues, maybe?

      • Jevia says:

        All well and good, except that this situation was an Air India plane from India landing in London. No jurisdiction by American law at all.

  10. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Ugh – and on Air India no less. I can’t imagine.

    I thought the early morning pig-and-chicken flight out of McAllen to Houston was bad, and that was only 40 minutes.

  11. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    Imagine if this was a Ryanair no bathroom plane.

  12. GoldVRod says:

    “Which means the flight didn’t at Heathrow until around 5:30 p.m.”

    Didn’t what? DIDN’T WHAT!!??!

    /runs around room shouting and throwing feces

  13. kittiefuk says:

    jesus…why didn’t they just deplane them and put them on a bus to Gatwick? would have been faster.

  14. AllanG54 says:

    Lead sentence should read, “…got diverted to nearby Gatwick because of bad weather.” Not the way it is written. And no one complained the bathrooms weren’t working. I’m amazed.

  15. George4478 says:

    The passengers tried calling the support line, but it kept ringing some guy’s cell phone in Seat 45E.

  16. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I wonder if the reason no food was accepted was that the passengers had religious beliefs which meant they could only partake of a certain diet.

    • catskyfire says:

      Some may have, depending on the specifics of the religion. But there are often basics that are pretty much open to all faiths, such as vegetables. Also, unless merely being in the presence of improper food (in which case, being in Britain would be a problem), the passengers could decide for themselves whether to accept specific food items.

      “Thanks, but as a Hindu, I must pass on the roast beef sandwich. I’m fine with that apple, though.”

  17. Max Headroom says:

    Want off the plane? Start shouting you have a bomb planted.

    • Rena says:

      That’ll get you off the plane, but it certainly won’t solve the being-trapped-in-a-tiny-room problem.

  18. StarKillerX says:

    A 10 hour flight is bad enough but sitting on the ground for 9 hours afterwards, I don’t think so. I’d have been taken off the plane in handcuffs long before the 9 hour mark.

  19. allknowingtomato says:

    If it were me, I would have started complaining of chest pains and a numb left arm around hour 3. Once escorted off the plane, I would refuse all medical attention.

    It may not be completely honest, but 9 hours trapped after 10 already traveling is unacceptable. I hope the regulations in Europe are such that Air India faces some hefty fines.

  20. chefboyardee says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re FLYING THROUGH THE AIR IN A GIANT METAL BIRD. Be amazed that you live in a time that this is possible. Once again, I refer everyone to:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

    Suck it up. At least this isn’t a 30 year trip like it used to be.

    • Rena says:

      Yeah, being trapped in a plane for 9 hours for no good reason is totally fine, because planes are modern technology! And you there, stop complaining about being shot! Do you have any idea how convenient guns are compared to the old methods?

  21. kobresia says:

    I think the obvious reason might be that Heathrow can handle international flights, and Gatwick probably can’t. The UK probably isn’t quite as crazy as the USA, but there were probably passports and other documents that needed to be inspected, and customs issues as well. You can’t just “let everyone off the plane” when it’s not an intra-country flight.

  22. dourdan says:

    Air India did this? i flew with them once, i never throught they would be this anal.

  23. megafly says:

    When the cops were their, I would ask them what the least I could do and still get arrested would be, and then do that with the cops there.

  24. Bort says:

    Air India:
    We treat you like cattle