Broken Toilets Leave United Passengers Stranded In Alaska For Two Days

A United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Shanghai had to make a two-day pit stop in Anchorage, Alaska, after it was discovered that some of the jet’s toilets weren’t functioning properly.

The malfunctioning potties were brought to the flight crew’s attention about three hours into the flight. A rep for the airline says the plane was then diverted to the nearest airport, which happened to be in Anchorage.

The 262 passengers remained on the plane for a few hours until they were allowed to deplane. Because of the large number of travelers and the small amount of available staff, it took several more hours to sort out meal and hotel vouchers. Some impatient passengers just booked their own hotels rather than wait.

“It was 10 or 11 p.m. before we had the meal vouchers,” one traveler tells the Anchorage Daily News. “Everything was closed.”

The scene at the hotel wasn’t much better.

“[T]he hotels all wanted credit cards in order to check in,” another passenger explains. “There are a lot of people traveling back to China. They don’t have credit cards. Some of the passengers stepped in and let them use theirs.”

Things were looking up the next day when United flew in a second jet to get people on their way. Unfortunately, after several hours of sitting on the tarmac, the plane’s computer overheated and once again the passengers were told to deplane and get in line for more vouchers.

“They wouldn’t let us have our luggage,” said a passenger.

“Some of us made a run to Walmart last night to get socks and underwear,” said another to ADN.

The passengers were finally able to get out of Anchorage with the help of a third jet, but not until after having missed connecting flights and lost hotel reservations. United says it will be refunding the full price of everyone’s tickets and may offer further compensation.

Quipped one stranded traveler, “If we’d known we’d be here this long, we might have done some sight-seeing.”

Broken toilets strand 262 plane passengers for two days []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    sounds like an adventure.

  2. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    Sounds like a lot of people….


    Got Shanghai’d.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I had actually hoped that meme had been retired.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        Too bad, I’m gonna keep dusting it off and using it. Tough times means I can’t be wasting resources on any new shiny memes that roll by. I work for a living goddamnit!

        Besides isn’t complaining about an old meme old in it’s own right?

    • smo0 says:

      I LOL’D thanks.

  3. Captain Spock says:

    *Might* be further compensation…

    I hate to call for legislation, but Airlines NEED to take responsibility for consequences resulting from their inability to plan or properly maintain their equipment. Not let them have their luggage? I call that THEFT.

    On the other hand, not getting their meal vouchers till 10 or 11pm? Well I am not sure that the Airline should pay for that anyway, one has to eat every day of the year regardless of where you are, so I do not see how the airline is responsible beyond a crappy meal they would have provided on an overseas flight.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      the luggage thing might be fore security reason. And once it’s for security reason, you can get anyway with anything.

    • mszabo says:

      I bet you can get a meal in Shanghai for a lot cheaper than at the airport in Alaska. For that matter a lot of people could argue that they would have eaten a home cooked meal in Shanghai for which their family had already purchased the food for the welcome home party. So that cost could be 0.

      Certainly the Airline could be a dick and attempt to obtain receipts and documentation for the cost differences but that would likely cost more money reviewing documents than just providing the voucher.

    • history_theatrestudent says:

      Except if the flight would have landed in its intended destination well before 10 or 11 pm. It is true an individual typically eats everyday but if they planned on eating at home, or somewhere within the lower 48 states it would be much cheaper. Prices are much higher in both Alaska and Hawaii compared to the rest of the United States.

    • Yomiko says:

      If they were on the flight, they’d probably be eating the meals included in their fares.

  4. sirwired says:

    I believe this is firmly under the category of $hit happens. (In this case, literally.) I don’t see how United could have handled it any better; they cannot conjure voucher-issuing staff (nor replacement toilet parts) out of thin air.

    They are providing full refunds as a start, and have indicated they may provide more… seems fair to me.

    • Captain Spock says:

      *may* provide further compensation… All the passengers should have to do is provide proof of missed connections (Hotels, flights, etc…) and they should be compensated the cost of re-booking.

      • Captain Spock says:

        To further clarify, It is one thing to be stranded in a strange city for a few hours while they fix the issue, it is entirely another to be stranded for 2 days.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Remember this wasn’t exactly Chicago we’re talking about, a short hop or even a planned stop.

          Not only is the location isolated but the fliight is extremely long range as well and of course both of these facts would severly limit the chance of a quick fix for an issue like this, as would the likely limited staffing at the airport at which they landed.

          • Captain Spock says:

            Well, Then they should not be allowed to have an airport there where a plane this size is allowed to land. If they do not have adequate backup equipment and support staff, how would they deal with a REAL emergency?

            • philpm says:

              The size of the airport and staffing are dependent on how many people go through it at any given time. Anchorage is by far the largest airport in Alaska, and many flights to and from Asia go through there. That said, having an extra long-range aircraft just sitting around in case they have problems with another one really isn’t feasible, and the closest major airport on the mainland is Sea-Tac, and that is still a 3-4 hour trip.

              • StarKillerX says:

                Exactly, and of course the flight landed in Anchorage on a Sunday evening, which likely just made things even worse.

            • StarKillerX says:

              Again, this wasn’t a planned stop, they only landed because of a problem on board, are you saying they should have flown hours longer with 262 passengers and limited toilet facilities? Ironically I suspect that had they done that you would be complaining that the airline forced the passengers to live in inhuman conditions during the flight. lol!

              Exactly what part of this do you think shows they can’t deal with a real emergency? IMO it appears this was simply a case of “shit happens” and was dealt with as best they could and they seemed to handle it very well. Unfortunately this resulted in an unplanned 2 day layover for which passengers recieving lodging, meal vouchers, refunded the cost of their flight and will likely end up with even more compensation

    • liam_cos says:

      they could have booked the hotels themselves, ordered pizza’s while the peopel waited for thei rvouchers, etc. The reasont he vouchers took so long is bacause they make them a pain in the ass to fill out in the first place in hopes that people get sick of waiting.

    • anti09 says:

      You get stranded in a frozen wasteland for two days without a stick of personal luggage and tell me that it falls under the category of “$hit happens.”

      Regardless of whether or not the problems are their fault (and I wholeheartedly feel that failure to perform routine maintenance is very much the airlines’ fault), their inability to deal with it highlights the problem with the industry as a whole.

      Waiting until 10-11 to get meal vouchers, when everything is already closed, is simply inexcusable. Like another poster said, it really wouldn’t have been so difficult for them to order a bunch of pizzas to the terminal. Likewise, the hotels should have been booked by the airline, and the passengers never should have had to deal with the headache. Finally, keeping their bags for TWO DAYS is the cherry on top of the sundae of bad decisions. There’s nothing preventing you from re-screening it when you (eventually) get your shit together and get back in the air.

    • thomwithanh says:

      That’s more than many airlines are willing to do. I’ve been in 12 hour MX delays where all I got was a “we’re sorry” voucher for 10% off a future flight. No meals, no compensation, nothing…

      • Jay911 says:

        Don’t I know that. Last September, I was scheduled to fly out of Gander, Newfoundland on Air Canada, on the last day (naturally) of my vacation. This was during the threat of strikes by FAs on Air Canada. All day the day before I was scheduled to fly, the news was filled with stories of how a last-minute deal had been brokered and the strike was not going to happen – so, I didn’t concern myself with trying to get a flight back sooner (which I could have done since the second-last day was pretty empty on my schedule). I got to the airport the next morning for my flight and was told it had been canceled “due to the strike”. Apparently they had to start cancelling flights in preparation for the strike, and couldn’t for some reason un-cancel them. I was told “You’re on the same flight tomorrow now, go away until then.” My complaints that I was scheduled to work the next day, and would thus be missing out on a day’s pay, plus having to pay for lodging for another day in Gander, fell on deaf ears. The counter staff basically told me to go away, and ACA’s customer complaints department didn’t give a damn either, then or after the fact.

        Aaaand fast-forward to today. I’m going on another vacation next week, and Air Canada is in the midst of labor strife again, plus shutting down their service contractor. Unbeknownst to me, the person who booked my flights put me on ACA again on the way home, on a non-refundable flight… At least, this time, the jumping-on point for ACA (PHL) will probably be easier to find a replacement flight on the same day.

        Airlines should be financially responsible for things like lost wages and lodging when they pull this kind of BS. Sure, “blame the OP” for not booking the flight home earlier than the day before I go back to work… not the point, and irrelevant in any case. If I put down multiple hundreds of dollars to travel on day X from point A to point B, if any of those variables don’t get met, there should be some kind of attempt to make things right beyond “sucks to be you, come back tomorrow”.

  5. nybiker says:

    Talk about the failure of the 6 P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance).

    • LetMeGetTheManager says:

      I think in this case it still is the six P’s…

      Prior Pissing Prevents Proper Plane Protocol

  6. benminer says:

    I’m surprised some local restaurant owner didn’t catch wind of all the hungry people with meal voichers and open up for them.

    • philpm says:

      Unfortunately, there isn’t much close to the airport in Anchorage, and most of the hotels are downtown, and most of the restaurants around them don’t stay open incredibly late either.

    • Blah Blah Blah says:

      Except that this isn’t true.
      11 p.m. is one of the busiest times at the Anchorage Airport with almost every Airline sending multiple flights out to the East Coast.
      All the Restautrants are still open, including some of the better Airport Brew Pubs in the US.

  7. Blueskylaw says:

    “Broken Toilets Leave United Passengers Stranded In Alaska For Two Days”

    No sh*t?

    Sorry, I just felt like being the first one to say it.

  8. Stilor says:

    I guess, in Unitedese “we’ll be refunding the tickets” means “we’ll issue some vouchers for the future flights”. At least that’s what happened when my parents were left waiting for 8 hours at the airport of departure because of mechanical failure, thus missing the connecting flight and having to stay overnight. With their flight taking 36 hours instead of scheduled 15, United didn’t even provide hotel or meal vouchers. After that, they issued vouchers for $250 per passenger, that was ~20% of the ticket fare.

  9. AllanG54 says:

    If I go to Alaska it’ll be by cruise ship. At least I won’t be stuck in a seat if the ship has problems.

  10. s25843 says:

    How funny. I was once on a continental jet from Newark to Fort Lauderdale that flew back to Newark as we were over Jacksonville cuz one of the toilets stopped working.

    Yeah… that decision didn’t make any sense to me either.