Passengers on an American Airlines flight to Dallas sat on the runway at San Antonio International Airport for about three hours Tuesday waiting for thunderstorms in North Texas to clear, said airport spokesman David Hebert.
He said it's the longest wait on the tarmac he can recall, and he described the passengers as "understandably upset." Airport officials were sympathetic, but said it was American's decision to keep passengers on board the plane.
"It's the airline's call," Hebert said.
American spokesman Tim Smith said the plane boarded around 1 p.m., but sat at the gate until 3:30 p.m. During that time, passengers were free to leave the plane and wait in the gate area, Smith said.
The plane tried to take off again at 4 p.m., but was delayed again, this time sitting on the runway for three hours. At 7 p.m., the passengers got off the plane, then got back on again 40 minutes later and finally took off at 8:30 p.m., Smith said.
"It's inconvenient, no question about it, but we can't control the weather or air traffic control system," Smith said.
American's policy allows aircraft to wait on the tarmac for up to four hours, he said.
Stormy weather diverted nine Dallas-bound flights to the San Antonio airport, Hebert said. All eventually took off, and none waited as long on the tarmac as the American flight, he said.
Earlier this month, a passengers group found that American marooned travelers on the runway more than any other U.S. airline in the past half-year, trapping them for hours with no water or working toilets.
Called the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, the group was formed by several passengers stranded on American aircraft for up to nine hours Dec. 29 at Austin International Airport. Passengers on 101 American or American Eagle flights sat on planes for up to five hours that day, the coalition reported.
The coalition's 15,000 supporters want carriers to provide water and food for passengers stuck on planes and to cap waits at three hours.
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