CHARLOTTE, N.C. --
US Airways disputed claims by passengers that they were stranded on a plane for nearly four hours Wednesday.
At least four passengers said they were stuck on Flight 1707 to San Jose, Costa Rica because of mechanical problems. They said they weren’t allowed to leave the plane until a teenager suffered a medical emergency and paramedics removed him from the flight.
Passengers Stuck On Plane At Charlotte-Douglas Airport; Crew Member Tells Different Story
“There was no air conditioning so it was extremely hot,” said Adam Sax, who said passengers were kept on board for roughly four hours. Sax took a series of pictures of videos both on board the plane and at the gate as medics responded.
“Everyone was starting to get hostile,” he said. “Everyone was starting to ask what’s going on.”
But a crew member on the flight said Sax’s account was not entirely accurate. The airline employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the plane left the gate ahead of schedule but crew members soon realized the on board water system was not working properly. That meant no running water for lavatories. He said the plane was on the tarmac for 71 minutes before it returned to the gate for repairs.
The crew member also said air conditioning was on during the entire time and the cabin “was comfortable.” He also said while the flight was parked at the gate, passengers were allowed to leave if they needed to use the restroom.
“We certainly allowed, without question, people to leave the plane, go in the terminal and use the restroom,” he said, adding that two passengers chose to do so.
Once repairs were complete 40 minutes later, the crew member said the plane left the gate for a second time, only to discover another mechanical problem. He said within 20 minutes, the plane was back at the gate, and that’s when they realized repairs would be lengthy.
“It’s not that we don’t want to meet anyone’s needs,” the crew member said. “I personally had talked to our catering department to bring additional meals on the airplane.”
But he said before that decision could be made, the airline decided to cancel the flight for several reasons, including compliance with federal regulations concerning the maximum amount of workday hours for the crew.
A US Airways spokesperson said one passenger suffered a medical emergency. Both Sax and the crew member described it as an apparent seizure.
“It wasn’t until someone had a seizure that everyone just kind of ran off the plane,” Sax said.
An airline spokesperson said the flight was in the process of deplaning when the emergency happened, but Sax called that statement untrue. He said some passengers were on the verge of tears because they couldn't leave the plane. Sax also called into question the crew member's version of the time line, claiming the time stamps on his video camera show the situation lasted longer.
According to company policy, US Airways said it does not keep passengers on board a grounded airplane for longer than three hours. New federal regulations announced on Wednesday force airlines to deplane passengers stuck on an international flight for four hours, though the new rules don’t take effect until August.
The crew member even described the mechanical delays as a blessing in disguise because had the medical emergency happened in mid-flight, he said it would have taken too long to get the teen to paramedics.
“For his sake, it was the best of circumstances,” he said. “We’re grateful it did happen at the gate.”
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