A direct flight between Laguardia and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport should only take about two and a half hours. On August 24th, it took a planeload of passengers flying Delta flight 521 14 hours to make the trip in what participants quoted by CBS2 call "madness" and a "torturous" experience. The 170 passengers of flight 521 were subjected to the sort of journey that makes bus travel seem like an attractive option.
The flight's trouble began when it encountered dangerous weather conditions over Atlanta and so it circled waiting for the skies to clear. After an hour, however, the flight had to be diverted to another airfield due to low fuel levels. That in itself is not that unusual. The Delta plane landed in Augusta, GA to refuel and wait for clearance to return to Atlanta. After 30 minutes on the tarmac, however, the plane's air conditioning turned off and with an outside temperature of 80 degrees, the interior of the sealed plane soon became very uncomfortable. A passenger told CBS2 that the bathrooms started to stink, people were sweaty, and some began crying, even as flight attendants handed out cups of ice.
What followed was hours of discomfort trapped in a stifling aircabin interrupted by a tarmac scare when disembarked passengers and crew ran from an engine that started unexpectedly. After the flight crew exceeded their allowable on-duty times, passengers were forced to wait the night at the small southern airport in Augusta before they could continue their journey to Atlanta, which they completed the next morning.
Delta responded to CBS2's inquiries about what happend to flight 521 on August 24th and they commended their personnel for looking after their passengers in a difficult situation. They said that the diversion due to weather was unavoidable and that construction at the Augusta airport prevented the deplaning of passengers to an airconditioned terminal. The noise that passengers thought was an engine was actually an auxilliary power unit and the captain wasn't running back onto the plane to turn off an engine, but to restart the aircraft's airconditioning system.