Passengers stranded: ‘We are running out of food’
PASSENGERS on board a United Airlines flight from New York to Hong Kong, have been left stranded on a freezing tarmac at a military airfield in sub-Arctic Canada for more than 15 hours.
The Boeing 777 departed at the scheduled time from Newark airport on Saturday afternoon for the 12,875km journey to Hong Kong.
But after three and a half hours into the flight, a passenger became ill on board, forcing the pilot to divert to Goose Bay in Canada, which is an Armed Forces base.
"We landed at about 9.30pm local time (8pm New York time)," Chris Liew said.
"The sick passenger was taken off and the plane refuelled to replenish the fuel dumped before landing.
"A couple of hours later we were informed there was a problem with a door and a mechanic was called.
"Evidently it couldn't be fixed and the pilots began working with their operations centre for a new plan, essentially involving a replacement aircraft that either took us back to Newark or on to Hong Kong or some intermediate airport closer to Hong Kong."
The aircraft door, it is understood, froze in the -20C temperatures, preventing the aircraft from taking off and from fully closing again.
As the 260 passengers sat on board the aircraft, temperatures outside continued to plummet. United Airlines spokeswoman Natalie Noonan said passengers were able to get in and out of the aircraft during the delay, but after 10 hours sitting on the tarmac food on-board began to run low.
One passenger wrote about the ordeal on social media, saying that communication between aircrew and those on board wasn't done effectively or efficiently.
"At one point you have to roll with the punches," professional wrestler Sonjay Dutt said in a phone interview.
"You're at their mercy. You're just hoping that they can communicate with you as honestly as possible, and I feel like that wasn't done."
It is understood mechanics arrived on Sunday afternoon to try and fix the door of the aircraft, but after realising it would be a lengthy process, a rescue plane was called in to take passengers back to Newark.
"We absolutely understand the frustration. It is a very unique situation," spokesman Ms Noonan said.
"The airport they landed in was just not equipped to handle everyone that was coming in."
One had become so angry, they set up a Twitter profile for the flight, entitled "Save United 179" posting from inside the plane.
There, a passenger revealed that no food or refreshments were made available until the 12 hour mark.
"UA, this is the all time worst customer experience I have ever had," tweeted one passenger, Rose Kazan. "Shame on you. Stranded for 12 hours.
"We need you guys to act on this colossal disaster and help get this plane moving."
According to CNN, crew handed out blankets, but according to Mr Dutt, they were able to offer little else to ease mounting anger from passengers.
After 16 hours on the freezing tarmac, a replacement aircraft landed at around 11am New York time and carried meals for passengers plus a fresh crew. It is understood all passengers will receive compensation and refunds for the flights.