Air Transat Passengers Call 911 After Being Stuck on Plane for Hours

Written by on August 2, 2017 in Travel News

Hell hath no fury — understandably so — like passengers stranded on hot airplanes for hours at a time. That’s what Air Transat learned Monday night after at least two passengers called 911 to report deteriorating conditions aboard flight 157 from Brussels. 

CBC News‘ Kristy Nease reports the flight was due in Montreal at 3:15 p.m. Monday. Thunderstorms threw in wrench in the flight plans and forced the plane to circle near Quebec city before finally diverting to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier Int’l Airport (YOW).

The plane sat on the ground for nearly six hours — after its eight hour jaunt from Belgium — before finally taking off for Montreal.

“The plane actually lost power and went zero AC [air conditioning], and then now we’ve got the doors open and one kid is puking, and people are just losing their minds,” passenger Laura Mah told CBC News. “They’re just getting mad, saying ‘This is not all right, this is not OK, you can’t do this to us.’ The police are in here and the fire department’s in here and they’re telling us that they can’t do anything, that we just have to stay put.”

It sounds like this could have devolved into The Hunger Games. Ms. Mah added that food was rationed and saved for children. The Ottawa International Airport Authority showed up and provided water to the passengers.

Scene Of Air Transat Passenger Airplane Taxiing To Loading, Unloading Gate Of Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport For Disembarkation After Arrival In The Netherlands Europe (Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/LIVINUS)

An Air Transat aircraft (not necessarily the exact plane involved in Monday night’s events at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier Int’l Airport) (Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/LIVINUS)

No Fuel?

Ms. Mah adds the passengers “were told that the plane needed to be refuelled, and then they were told the fuel truck had run out of fuel.”

Lovely.

No fuel (and, apparently, no available auxiliary power unit/APU) meant there was no power to run the air conditioning.

Personally, I find all that rather odd. First, Ottawa International is an Air Transat airport. It’s not like Air Transat would have to duke it out with another airline to buy fuel or use another union’s employees to gas up the plane. (I suffered through a five-hour Allegiant delay because of this exact scenario.)

Plus, most diversion airports have enough fuel on hand to take care of everyone, even when they reach capacity. Diversion airports know they are diversion airports. These are contingencies filed in flight plans. There are no surprises here.

It’s not like Ottawa is a tiny airport in some out-of-the-way little village. Is it possible Ottawa International ran out of fuel? Sure. Or is this case of passing the buck?

Air Transat and Ottawa seem to be engaged in a game of “He Said, She Said.”

Ottawa Airport: Gate, Stairs, Buses, Supplies at the Ready

The Ottawa International Airport Authority said they had stairs, buses, a gate, and supplies ready to accommodate passengers had the airline decided to disembark the passengers.

Ultimately, though, Air Transat decided to keep their customers on the sweltering plane.

“We keep a supply of water, food, diapers and other personal hygiene necessities to support passenger needs in irregular operation scenarios, and were prepared to deploy these supplies,” the authority said.

“Although our staff tried several times to contact the aircrew through the handlers to provide further assistance, the aircrew was non-communicative and did not take us up on our offers to assist further.

“We are disappointed that Air Transat has not been forthcoming, transparent or accountable with information concerning their diverted flights.”

‘You can’t do this to us’: Fuming passengers stuck on planes for hours call 911″
Kristy Neasefor CBC News

Flight 157 finally departed at 10:59 p.m. and arrived in Montreal about a half hour later.

Air Transat Responds

As with most situations, there are (at least) two sides to every story.

Here’s Air Transat’s (for now):

I’m curious to hear their “version of events.”

But There’s a Passengers Bill of Rights — Right?

Not in Canada.

Bill C-49 — “a new air passenger bill of rights” — was introduced earlier this year, though. Peter Zimonjic at CBC News explains the bill “would punish airlines for keeping people on the tarmac longer than three hours, forcing them to compensate passengers. But it would not compel carriers to disembark a plane delayed for long periods.”

So, basically, Air Transat would’ve been coughing up vouchers or refunds to the passengers stuck on flight 157.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Were the passengers right to call 911? Have you ever been stuck in a similar situation? Tell us in the comment section below.

 

(Hat tip to KTLA — I first saw this story on their news program this morning, but couldn’t find a link)

 

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Chris Carley is a writer, media consultant, voice over artist, dog owner, husband, and recently became a dad! He loves talking all things points and miles. You'll likely find him in an airport lounge while on a trip that involves the most circuitous route possible leading to his ultimate destination. .

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