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United passengers stranded on Canadian asphalt for over 18 hours



Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Hong Kong endured a full-time flight when their aircraft were grounded for more than 18 hours at a common Canadian airport.

Hours after departing from Newark Liberty International Airport around 3 pm EST on Saturday, United Flight 179 was diverted to Goose Bay Airport in Canada's northeastern Newfoundland and Labrador province due to a medical emergency.

Medical staff met the plane at the gate and the emergency passenger was taken to the hospital. When the crew members were ready to leave, they noticed a mechanical problem with one of the aircraft's doors.

And then an unfortunate wait for everyone on board began.

Passengers weren't allowed to leave the plane because the airport did not have customs officials manned overnight, according to a statement issued by United. An alternative flight was sent to Goose Bay to bring customers back to Newark, but it did not arrive until about 14 hours later.

Outside air temperatures dropped overnight on Saturday to Sunday, and food supplies were low for the 250 passengers and 15 crew members on board the aircraft.

"Please help us," passenger Sonjay Dutt tweeted from Goose Bay early Sunday morning. "This is an emergency @united. People don't do well. Run low on food."

Dutt tweeted hours later, Goose Bay officials gave passengers water and snacks from a Canadian fast food chain, Tim Hortons, and some passengers were taken to a customs area to "stretch their legs." A UN spokesman confirmed that passengers were taken off the plane when a customs officer arrived.

Mechanical crew members tried to repair the door several times, according to several passengers who lived tweeted their experience.

Finally, passengers were taken to another flight midnight Sunday to return to Newark. The flight landed at New Jersey airport approx. pm. 6 EST Sunday – more than 24 hours after the saga began.

"The whole way they have treated us from troubleshooting, communication and actual processing (or lack of) of most flight children has not only been unprofessional, but even," Passenger Cherie Martorana Neve wrote in a Facebook post on dinner Sunday . "This is not an airline. It is more like a prison."

After arriving in Newark, United offered passengers refunds, compensation, hotel accommodation and meals, according to an airline statement.

"We wondered our customers for this experience" United said in a statement. "Our crew and operations did everything to help the customers during the delay."

This article has been updated with comment from United.


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