Passengers Call 911 During Five-Hour Tarmac Delay With No Food or Water

Aug 2, 2017

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Monday was not a good day for Canadian airline Air Transat. Two of its flights inbound to Montreal from Europe had to be diverted to Ottawa (YOW) because of bad weather. While weather diversions are fairly common, the events that followed after the flights landed were unfortunate, to say the least.

Both flight 157 from Brussels (BRU) and flight 507 from Rome (FCO) were diverted to YOW, and when they landed, both sat on the ramp for several hours, where, according to passengers, there was minimal service, passengers were overheating and hardly any communication was given from the airline.

Flight 157 landed in Ottawa around 5:00PM local time, with 336 passengers on board, and didn’t leave for Montreal (YUL) until 11:00PM. After the flight, passenger Laura Mah told the CBC, “The plane actually lost power and went zero AC, and then now we’ve got the doors open and one kid is puking, and people are just losing their minds. 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.”

Laura even reached out to the airport, which gave the following response.

The airport’s initial response, while accurate, raises some questions. You’d think someone at YOW would have tried to get the ball rolling to assist these passengers before they had to resort to calling 911. Apparently, after the call was made, authorities came to the plane in an attempt to figure out who specifically made the call.

This morning, the airport released a statement explaining its role during this event, saying, “We had a gate available and air stairs ready in the event that the airline decided to deplane. We also had buses on the tarmac ready to shuttle passengers to the terminal — buses the Authority purchased specifically for situations such as this. Neither the ground handling service nor the airline requested either of these during the event.”

Another Twitter user posted videos during the unplanned stay in Ottawa, but it’s unclear which diverted flight he was on. In the video, a flight attendant can be heard asking passengers to remain in their assigned seats so that the crew could open the plane’s doors for air circulation.

Here’s another video showing the situation on board:

Passenger Laura Mah also claimed that it wasn’t until after the 911 call that paramedics began bringing bottles of water to the plane — but no food. Any remaining food on board after the long flight from Brussels was given to children — at least the cabin crew got that right.

According to EU Passenger Rights rules, because the flights originated in EU countries, passengers had the right to be disembarked after the delay reached the 5-hour mark. Passengers could also be entitled to significant compensation for the long tarmac wait, in addition to the flight’s delayed arrival.

Ottawa International Airport has the facilities to handle international arrivals — there are many flights from the US each day, as well as service to/from London on Air Canada. It’s difficult to speculate as to why the planes weren’t allowed to park at a gate for passengers to disembark the aircraft and enter the airport. At least if the plane had been parked at a gate, it could have utilized electric power and the air conditioning.

Ottawa received over 30 diverted flights that were originally bound for Montreal. It’s likely that Ottawa International Airport was overwhelmed with the amount of diverted flights it was receiving, and thus experienced lengthy delays. Regardless, we feel for the passengers that endured such long and uncomfortable delays, and hope the airline and airport have learned from this situation so something like this doesn’t happen again in the future.

Featured image via BriYYZ (Flickr / Commercial Use Allowed)

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