Passengers Stranded On Grounded American Airlines Flight For 8 Hours

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, a flight was diverted because of severe thunderstorms and passengers were left to sit on a grounded airplane for 8 hours. By the time they arrived at their destination, they’d been on the plane for 11 hours. Sound familiar? It happened again. The snacks and drinking water got scarce. Someone ordered pizza—”50-70″ slices for 200 people.

From USA Today:

An isolated incident such as the one in Midland should not be used to justify broad new regulations about delayed flights, says David Castelvetter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which represents large airlines. “By all accounts, American handled it well, given the severe weather conditions,” Castelvetter says.

The legislation was proposed after American jets were delayed up to eight hours in Austin on Dec. 29 and JetBlue Airlines suffered similar problems on Feb. 14 in New York.

Passengers aboard Flight 556 say they were never told why they couldn’t get off. As the hours passed, they say they were offered few updates about the flight’s status.

“I’m a pretty easy person,” says Mike Cunningham, 30, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “I don’t really get too worked up about stuff. But after sitting there for awhile, it got pretty annoying. I think the biggest issue was it wasn’t really communicated to us what was going on.”

American has apologized and sent $500 vouchers. The airport claims it was unsafe to let the passengers off the plane because they couldn’t find a stairway that fit. —MEGHANN MARCO

8-hour ordeal left fliers hungry, angry [USAToday]
(Photo: Chril1024)


Edit Your Comment

  1. joeblevins says:

    $500 in vouchers? How far will that get you anymore?

  2. tracilyns says:

    “The airport claims it was unsafe to let the passengers off the plane because they couldn’t find a stairway that fit.”

    But they couldn’t simply bring the plain back to an open gate and let people off the usual way? Absolutely ridiculous.

  3. rlee says:

    Doesn’t sound like Castelvetter heard the passengers’ “accounts”. No explanations? Not enough food and water brought in?

  4. AndyMan1 says:

    Passengers need to start making deals with the flight attendants. Have one of them overhear the B(omb) word and then conveniently forget who exactly said it due to the stress of being locked in the plane for 8 hours.

    Or have a passenger threaten to take a shit in the aisle.

    That will get them off the plane soon enough.

  5. rlee says:

    @tracilyns: It wouldn’t surprise me if a small airport like Midland didn’t have gates where the jetbridge (or whatever they call ’em) could be adjusted for a 757.

  6. QTex says:

    Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Midland-Odessa Airport one of those airports without jetways (i.e. they have to use those stairs).

    I don’t think Midland-Odessa Airport really equipped to handle jets of the size that stopped over. If that’s the case, why AA chose that airport, I don’t know. A 757 is a relatively large plane, and I doubt Midland-Odessa usually gets 757-sized service. But I could be horribly wrong.

  7. Bay State Darren says:

    It’s not an isolated incident. Anybody at the Air Transit Association remember February? Planes should not become jails. If you’re running an airline, you need to plan for every possible problem: crash, heightened security rules etc. Just because you already have the passengers’ money doesn’t mean you don’t need to care about them any longer.

  8. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    What a load of bull$h!t. There is no reason whatsoever that people should be kept on a grounded plane for that long. None.

  9. GearheadGeek says:

    The AA rep’s “An isolated incident such as the one in Midland should not be used to justify broad new regulations about delayed flights” comment is 100% wrong. EVERY incident like this is evidence that the airlines don’t care about their cargo customers, and just want to have them stuff into the plane so a) they’re not whining to gate staff and b) in the unlikely event that the weather breaks they can get the plane off the ground. Until there is some significant penalty for this kind of behavior, the airlines have shown that they will continue it, promising better behavior all the while.

  10. bigvicproton says:

    this happened to me once. the girl sitting next to me decided two hours was enough and told the steward she felt faint. they gave her a blanket. then 10 minutes later she starts shaking. you can believe that plane got to a gate pronto. her recovery was nothing short of miraculous seeing as how we saw her downing vodka tonics in the bar later as we all waited for the flight to resume (but at least not still in the plane)…a true hero…

  11. mathew says:

    I’ve had a similar nightmarish experience on AA. The reason they gave for not being able to let us off the plane then was that it was covered in de-icer. They also couldn’t run the air conditioning for the same reason.

  12. Hoss says:

    No stairway, etc — but somehow pizza arrives?

  13. timmus says:

    By the time Flight 556 left Midland and landed in Dallas, passengers had been on the jet about 11 hours.

    11 HOURS on a plane designed for a short domestic hop? What the hell?

    The complete lack of consumer protection, and the fact that this “bill of rights” has been idling for several years, convinces me that Congress doesn’t give a rat’s ass. How much do you want to bet that there’s some airline lobby fighting this and insisting that passengers be trapped on the plane?

  14. tmclarke says:

    I wonder why someone on the plane doesn’t calmly tell a flight attendant that they are experiencing shortness of breath, pain in their chest, and shooting pains down their arm. At that point, anyone with and ounce of sense will get that plane back to the gate.

    Once there, tell the emergency responders that the pain is gone, and that it must have been a panic attack.

  15. MaliBoo Radley says:

    The should have busted out the inflatable slide. I would have been incredibly pissed and clausterphobic.

  16. MentalDisconnect says:

    Teacher, I’ve got a question. On an 8 hour timespan there is a good chance I could have a seizure. So what if I was having seizures? Would they let me off? A cramped plane is really not the right place for that sort of thing, I could injure myself, sue… So let’s say the airline was smart and let me off. Well, if they could let me off, couldn’t they let everyone else off, too? Or maybe they’d let absolutely no one off. No matter if you were having a heart attack or a seizure or running up and down the aisles and screaming about flourescent ponies. That sounds like a good flight (and by flight I mean actually on the ground, stationary). Bon voyage!

  17. madktdisease says:

    You know what? I just stopped going on vacation to places I couldn’t drive.

    Driving to Toronto from Boston was a breeze. It was actually fun to look around, and eating and stopping when we wanted was luxurious. Flying is never fun, nor cheap. And does it save so much time? Takes an hour to get to the airport, need to be there 2 hrs in advance for international, plus a 2 hour flight and then half an hour getting off the plane and grabbing your stuff plus another half hour cab ride… so that’s 6 hours. Driving is 10, tops. And we saved how many hundreds of dollars?

  18. Brad2723 says:

    Ok, in this situation after a reasonable amount of time has passed, pull out your cell phone and dial 911. Tell them that you have been hijacked and are being held hostage by the pilots and crew. That will get you off of the plane in a hurry.
    With customer service like this, it’s no wonder the airlines are going bankrupt.

  19. SexCpotatoes says:

    less than $5 per hour in compensation…and in vouchers no less. Absolutely scandalous.

  20. formergr says:

    Isolated incident my ass. Are they going to parrot that line the hundredth time this happens too?

  21. humphrmi says:

    @SexCpotatoes: Actually that would be roughly $50 per hour. Granted, it’s vouchers. And, granted, it’s actually $45.45 per hour.

  22. parrott_b says:

    I think you mean less than 50$ an hour. If they were stuck on the flight for 100 hours Id be really pissed.

  23. Secularsage says:

    A $500 travel voucher for the inconvenience is adding insult to injury — how many of these people will REALLY want to see the inside of another American Airlines plane anytime soon after this?

    On a side note, it’s good to know you can get pizza delivered to a plane!

  24. saerra says:

    madktdisease said: “You know what? I just stopped going on vacation to places I couldn’t drive.”

    YES! Me too :) Between the horror stories of not being able to bring soap and shampoo through security, people being left on the plane (or abandonned!) for long hours, and the fabulous scanner technology they’re developing that basically shows a photo of you naked (“hey it’s ok, the guy looking at the picture is actually in another room, in another building… plus it’s better than being strip searched!”)

    … between all that, it just is not worth it to me. Sorry airplanes, no more of my $$$ for you!

  25. NZDave says:

    Surely, surely in the great US of A, with its often referenced legal system (and participants) you must have a law prohibiting the detainment of people against their will?

    Waive your safety rights and demand to be released. What legal basis remains for refusing egress?

  26. andimal says:

    Seriously, this was a DIVERSION. That’s what happens when the plane can’t get to where it’s supposed to go, for whatever reason (typically weather).
    Apparently Midland was the best option for landing to wait out the storm. Do you all think that AA sought out this kind of publicity? If the equipment to deplane folks from a 757 isn’t available in Midland, then it just isn’t! End of story, the people can’t get out of the plane there. Get over it, these people will all survive.

  27. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    One of the reasons passengers must sometimes wait extended periods on the ground is that… the airline does not want to pay a competitor to use its gate.

    So if you’re waiting an hour because there isn’t, say, an American gate available, there might be 5 United ones sitting empty.

    I highly doubt that’s what came into play here, but just an FYI for ya.

  28. MentalDisconnect says:

    @andimal: 8 hours is unreasonable. I will sit tight as there is paperwork errors, miscommunication, extra baggage added, the plane is de-iced, but I will not just sit tight for 8 hours! I paid and planned for a flight minus those 8 hours. If let off, people could find other options for transportation. I can’t believe they have no way to deplane people. Like stated above, I have a medical condition, what if I needed to get off the plane? I’m sure AA isn’t seeking out this kind of publicity, but it seems like they could try harder.

  29. delphi_ote says:

    I just sent an e-mail to

    “I flew with American Airlines recently, but, after hearing about your airline keeping passengers grounded on a plane for eight hours, I regret this. In the future, I won’t be flying with American Airlines. This type of behavior is unacceptable. You are in the business of transporting humans, not cargo. Until you start treating them as such, you won’t be getting my business anymore.”

    Write your own e-mail and let them know we’re not going to stand for our fellow consumers being treated this way.

  30. a says:

    @Hossofcourse: How’d they get the pizza without a staircase? Duh, Frisbee!

  31. andimal says:

    @MentalDisconnect: NO! You all do not get it! Don’t you think that AA would have offloaded these people if it was possible?!

  32. shdwsclan says:

    Is a $500 voucher gonna buy you a meal at a restaurant ? I think not. Ask AA to redeem them as $500 or you will sue…

  33. MentalDisconnect says:

    @andimal: Ah. Time to bust out the inflatable slide, then.

  34. bittersweet says:

    We left Orlando on 4 June 2007 on AA Flight 690. We were late in leaving Orlando, arrived at Dallas just as they closed the airport, circled the airport until fuel became a concern and the flight was diverted to San Antionio. We disembarked and several announcements were made about luggage and finally it was announced our luggage had been unloaded and was in an unsecured area. I left the line for tickets to get our luggage and got in another line downstairs. It was midnight before I got a hotel voucher for myself and my 6 year old grandson. We never received meal vouchers. No food was available at the airport and the airline did nothing about providing food for all the children on this flight. I contacted AA and they sent me a voucher for $100 and completly ignored my comments about not providing food for children. I recontacted them and was informed they were sorry I was upset and again ignored my main complaint which was they sent us to a “closed” airport and provided no food or drinks for the children on this flight. We were back at the airport by 4:30 am. Our morning flight was canceled as the relief crew had not arrived. I was able to buy food for my Grandson that morning after 6 am. I was fortunate to find two tickets for a direct flight to St Louis. When we were boarding several of the people from our flight were still attempting to find a way out of San Antonio.

    American Airlines needs to make arragnements for food for their passengers, especially children who through no fault of their own cannot be fed. It is a crime to make children go hungry and make it impossible for their guardians to obtain food for them. Since this was to be a 3 hour flight the airplane did not carry food and drink for emergencies and most parents/guardians had few if any snacks with them.

  35. Ayitiana says:

    This is an email I just sent to AA regarding my 4 hour delayed flight and I want the public to be aware of my experience with AA…

    I had the worst experience traveling with AA last night. On my way from PAP to MCO my connection flight in MIA flight 1990 was delayed for 4 hours. I meant four long hours taxi around at the airport until the airplane almost run out of gas. We were there sitting without explanations, and the flight attendants starting to be rude after so many were demanding the reasons why the flight was delayed. They kept saying that we were going to take off in 30 minutes then turn to 45 minutes until it was 4 hours later they took off. Worst of all, there was not even a glass of water offered to us the stranded passengers. This ridiculous practice needs to stop. You guys need to stop treating people like Goats and pigs. If a flight is unable to take off, we need to know the reason and put to another flight within the next hour to get to our destination. I even had to take a cab from Orlando to Ocala because my ride had to go to work; you map it and see the distance and the amount of money I had to pay to get home so late. A flight that was supposed to take me 1 hour took me over 5 hours. The scary part was when we left MIA; it took the pilot 35 minutes to get to MCO that meant, the pilot double the speed to get us there. Thanks God nothing happen because I thought I was not going to see my kids again because I thought of that Haitian Lady who died on your plane. Your business really put me in a lot of stress and discomfort. What happen to the Passenger Bill Of Rights?