Pilot To Stranded Passengers: "I'm Powerless"

A passenger on a plane stranded for hours turned his video camera on and asked the pilot why they couldn’t get off, even though one teenager was vomiting and there seems to have been an infant in distress. The pilot agreed that he would do something else if his family was on the plane, but “they” had closed the ramp and he was powerless to act. Is it just us or does the quality of air travel just seem to get worse and worse?

[via Today Show]

UPDATE: NYT’s article gives more context for the video.


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  1. alpha says:

    Man I sure hate when I am “standed”.
    Damn the man for making us stand!

    Seriously, first you guys muck up the layout, now you aren’t even catching simple typos.


  2. Dickdogfood says:

    Forgive this total noob question, but what is the ostensible reason airlines give when they “have to” strand people on sitting planes and won’t let ’em off?

  3. Art Vandelay says:

    While we’re on the topic, the new layout is fugly and really doesn’t work.

    Relating to the post, air travel is falling, but that’s because carriers know they will be bailed out if they fuck up, so there’s no reason to adapt, try new ideas or fix their game.

  4. dbeahn says:

    Again, does anyone know what the legal penalty is for popping open an emergency door when you’re being illegally imprisoned on an airliner?

  5. mikecolione says:

    Why not just say something crazy and deal with it in court later.

    In court explain you were temporarily insane from being held hostage and then sue the airline and airport for holding you against your will. Anything more than half hour “waiting” on the runway should require the plane to be called back to the terminal.

  6. joemono says:

    Along the lines of what dbeahn and mike are saying – how many times does this have to happen before someone simply removes themselves from the plane via the emergency exit? I wonder if I’d have the guts to do that. And I wonder how long I’d wait before thinking about whether or not I had the guts to do that.

  7. Peeved Guy says:

    @mikecolione: “Anything more than half hour “waiting” on the runway should require the plane to be called back to the terminal.”

    I disagree that they should be “required” to return. Pilots are highly trained and educated people, they should be empowered to make the decision to return or not based on the circumstances. The recent rash of “stranded on an airplane” stories is proof positive that they have been stripped of any authority at all.

    Airline exec: “Jus’ shaddup and fly de airplane!”

  8. aparsons says:

    I stopped reading lifehacker when they switched to this annoying layout. I’m removing consumerist from my links as well, now.

  9. Lewis says:

    This scares the shit out of me.

    I am not generally claustrophobic but to keep people on a plane WITHOUT CIRCULATION for four hours seems inhumane. Thankfully it has never happened to me but I do fly a lot and this seems to be happening more often (or maybe it’s just in the news more.) Really scary stuff.

    It’s a bit delicious to say that a Pax Bill of Rights will ever make its way through Congress, considering it has not happened yet for no ascertainable good reason.

    You should reallly watch the full “Today” piece at MSNBC.com which includes an interview with an unusally testy Peter Greenberg – good for him, this situation is unreasonable.

  10. enm4r says:

    Where would you go if you just opened the door though? You’re going to jump 20 feet down to the runway and then run to freedom?

    The only times I’ve ever been stuck on the plane, we pulled away from the gate, so that opening the door just would have created more problems, not solutions.

    Though I am curious, if you’re still at the gate and you open the door, what the legal consequences would be, or when the plane is determined to be “holding you against your will” considering we probably consented to it by purchasing the ticket.

    PS: The layout would be alright if it were consistent and actually worked right. As implemented, it is broken, and really annoying to deal with.

  11. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:


    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  12. LionelEHutz says:

    Congress needs to stop giving loans to these piece of crap companies every time they get in trouble. If they make stupid decisions they should suffer the consequences.

  13. Sudonum says:

    You’d open the emergency exit and the “slide” would inflate. Slide down and run your ass off, and remember that the slide doubles as a flotation device!

  14. Lewis says:

    @LionelEHutz: While the consumerist in me agrees with your sentiment, it’s bit more complex than that.

    Post 9/11, if the US government did not bail out the legacy carriers, we’d likely find ourselves in a situation where only one or two “big” carriers still exist. The implication there is that 1) competition in the commercial travel space would be likely non-existant and 2) lower-revenue routes to smaller markets would either become prohibitively expensive for most travelers, and/or the only option for those unprofitable markets would be charters.

    So while bailouts do seem to reward companies for their own fiscal incompetence in some cases, the alternative is no more rosy: the country needs its air travel infrastructure, however flawed, to remain in existance.

    At the same time, however, the government should be severely punishing carriers who violate an agreed-upon “bill of rights.” That punishment should come in the form of income forfeiture for the airline’s senior executives, which would provide plenty incentive for the airline CxO to run his business more effectively and humanely, while not potentially fining the carrier out of business.

  15. alpha says:


    Pretty sure there is still circulation/ventilation when you’re sitting still on the tarmac. In fact, I’m positive. So you don’t have to worry about using up all the oxygen and dying or anything else equally stupid.

  16. Lewis says:

    According to the full “Today” video at MSNBC.com the passengers claim the captain said there would be no A/C or circulation, and that the crew opened the doors from time to time.

  17. Erskine says:

    @LewisNYC: “That punishment should come in the form of income forfeiture for the airline’s senior executives, which would provide plenty incentive for the airline CxO to run his business more effectively and humanely, while not potentially fining the carrier out of business.”

    That’s like expecting WalMart not to raise prices to cover rising shrinkage costs.

    Fine the execs all you want – the carrier’s revenue will be tapped to make it up.

  18. Lewis says:

    @Erskine: We still need the government to get tough on the airline decision-makers. This is no different from when a judge in NY threatened to force a then-mayor to spend a night or more in City housing until and unless conditions improved.

    The airline industry is strange because while it is a commercial, for-profit, largely unregulated enterprise, it is essentially still a utility and very much a part of the country’s infrastructure.

    The reason we didn’t take any significant $ from our family for our wedding is becasue we didn’t want two sets of parents dictating the guest list, plans, etc. The airlines willingly took $ from the government, now they need to listen to the government’s demands.

    If only the government started making demands…

  19. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I second the suggestion to see Peter Greenberg’s tirade following the story, on The Today Show. MOST entertaining. He made two really funny, but salient, points:

    *People should sue for false imprisonment. It was tried in the ’90’s and the airline in question settled for a gazillion dollars, to avoid a precedent-setting court decision.
    *Every flight should be equipped with a passenger-operated camcorder.

  20. Erskine says:

    @LewisNYC: “The airline industry is strange because while it is a commercial, for-profit, largely unregulated enterprise, it is essentially still a utility and very much a part of the country’s infrastructure.”

    I live in DC and take Metro twice work-daily. I feel ya.

  21. lawnmowerdeth says:

    I think if I were on one of them 4+ hour strandings, I’d light up a smoke. It would calm my urge to kill, and probably get someone motivated to get everyone off the plane.

  22. JustAGuy2 says:

    In this case, if the ramp truly was closed, there wasn’t anything the pilot could do – in the event of bad weather, esp. lightning, it can be too dangerous for the ground crew to be out – as a result, there wouldn’t be anybody there to guide the plane in, hook it back up, chock the wheels, etc.

  23. Lewis says:

    @Erskine: Step back, doors opening.

    DC is so unbelievably funny. We used to live there and still own property there. I adore it as a place to live but the logistics involved in working with a city government that is still largely controlled by Congress can be maddening.

  24. CapitalC says:

    I sat in a plane at LaGuardia back in May, we were pushed back from the gate but had to wait for 2 1/2 hours thanks to the stupid flight-holding they have for flights in and out of LGA. There was only 1 A/C bank working and it was HOT, an airline attendant told us the 2nd A/C bank was not operational – period, not that they just didn’t turn it on. After a few people complained they finally turned off the interior lighting but never even brought around beverages or snacks “because we could be leaving at any time”.

    Thanks, next time I’ll fly into another airport.

  25. tspack says:

    I’ve never been trapped on a plane like that, but if it ever happens to me, I already have a plan in place: hyperventilation and chest pain. Once I am off the plane, I’m sure I’ll feel much better.

  26. OwenCatherwood says:

    @Sudonum: Only if you’ve heard the pilot call out “Flight attendants arm doors for departure”. If the doors aren’t armed to deploy, then you’ll just have an open door and a good gap to jump to the jetway if you’re still at the gate.

  27. Sudonum says:

    In the words of Johnny Carson…. I did not know that. Thanks

  28. mikecolione says:

    @Peeved Guy:

    It’s going to take a government regulation to put an end to this. As we all see pilots keep saying we’ll be taking off at any minute. Well, if your out there for more than 30 minutes, there is obviously to much traffic that the airport can’t handle. It shouldn’t be the airlines paying for this because they only schedule what the airport and FAA allow them to. If an airport sees a bottleneck in the system, they should react. Flights are scheduled months in advance, allowing problems to pop up early. Late flights may require a push back of take off activity, but at least let the passengers hang around the terminal a little more instead of sitting on a cramped plane.

  29. yg17 says:

    The longest I’ve been trapped on a plane was a little over an hour, leaving Baltimore on TWA (Yes, it was that long ago). Couldn’t imagine anything longer, I feel sorry for these people and the airlines need to start getting their shit together ASAP.

    I’m flying out of town next week, and shit like this happens so often, I’m worried that I’ll be stuck on a plane for 8 hours.

  30. RonDiaz says:

    @Jaysyn: The new layout is bad though, my eyes are not tolerating it well, I’m probably going to be visiting less, which is sad because I like the content here generally.

  31. s35flyer says:

    I call it the wallmarting of america. Do not misunderstand I like walmart, but we (the public) get what we demand. I’m old enough to remember when people flying wore clothes, dressed decent and there were no babies and no strollers and no people who thought that a shopping bad full of junk was acceptable luggage. Today its a different world, flying is like hitch hiking and getting a lift in a VW minivan.

    We (the public)demanded and rewarded airlines with cheap fares. We got what we asked for….Sometimes we forget that….

    No, I dont work for an airline or anything else, I am a private pilot and I can say without a doubt that todays fares barely cover expenses, therefore we demanded walmart, we got it.

  32. chili_dog says:

    If there are no gates to park a plane at then the plane WILL be held in the “Penalty Box” until there is a gate to park at. There is only so much space that aircraft can go on a terminal ramp. 1 hour, let alone 7 hours is way too long to be stuck on a plane, but this is a direct result of not having an adequate plan to accommodate all these planes in the event of an upset to operations. Remember after 9/11 it took about 5 days for the entire US air system to recover. It’s because all the cogs must mesh at the tight time and when they dont, there is hell to pay and long lines.

  33. FLConsumer says:

    I’m still wondering… when is some airline going to break free of this crap, stop worrying about price, and offer quality service?

    Any airline interested in doing this, please let me know. My many dollars are looking for your business!

  34. Chese says:

    If it were a medical emergency the captain certainly could get the infant off the plane. Speaking of the greater problem of these ground holds. The airlines schedule too many flights for the hub airports for good weather, let alone poor weather. My best advice is to avoid major airports if you can.

  35. tspack says:

    S35FLYER: “I’m old enough to remember when people flying wore clothes”

    I know TSA is out of control and would probably like to go this route, but what flights have you been on lately where people were without clothes? ;-)

  36. bilge says:

    Pilot: “Are you filming?”
    David: “You bet your ass I am.”

    Internet tough guy hits the real world!