The passengers of a Virgin Atlantic flight that departed London on Tuesday have finally made it to their final destination: Newark, NJ. They arrived via bus yesterday, and it sounds like all 300 or so were ready to vent about their experience—including one man who told Eyewitness News at least one passenger who panicked was threatened with arrest.
When the flight was diverted to and grounded at Bradley Airport in Connecticut, passengers were left on the plane for four hours (8:20 p.m. to 1 a.m.) as temperatures rose and humidity took over. The air conditioner (and at times all power) wasn't working, leading some trapped passengers to faint and some needing to be treated by paramedics. One man told the AP, "Everyone was beginning to get a bit crazy; a few people got fevers, they were really struggling. Basically they cracked." While it didn't get all Alive, there were fears that things could get violent—one man described the scene: "people started shouting, getting more abusive. It got a little scary at times."
While domestic flights cannot be held longer than 3 hours on the tarmac (without the airline facing a huge fine of up to $27K/per passenger)—international flights are not subject to that rule, though Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says federal officials are investigating whether any rules were violated. LaHood, prior to this incident, also proposed extending the tarmac rule to foreign carriers.
A Virgin spokeswoman noted that because Bradley doesn't deal with international flights, it took them a while to get everyone through customs, and for 4 of those 7 hours they were held on the plane; she declared, "It was a situation that was beyond our control." (Though the WSJ says "common sense needs to come into play as well. Airports need to be better prepared. So do airlines.") Allegedly the cabin crew made announcements every 10 minutes that the plane would be departing soon—which by the end of 4 hours sounds maddening! Currently passengers have only been offered vouchers for ground transportation and hotels, though the airline says they are considering offering "some sort of credit" on tickets.