HARTFORD, Conn. -- Passengers on a diverted Virgin Atlantic Airways flight spent more than four hours stuck in a hot, dark plane parked on a tarmac, while babies squirmed and people yelled and screamed. At least three people fainted and were taken away in ambulances.
Bad weather grounded the flight from London to Newark, N.J., at
Connecticut's Bradley International Airport on Tuesday night.
Passengers told CNN they landed at about 8:20 p.m. and were kept on
the plane until about 1 a.m. Wednesday without food or water.
"It was like four hours on the ground without any air
conditioning. It was crazy. Just crazy," passenger Beth Willan
told CNN. "There were babies on the plane. And we are in dark and
hot. You try to be patient but people were yelling and screaming."
A reporter from the Press of Atlantic City was on the flight
with members of a girls varsity crew team from Egg Harbor Township,
N.J. She said the plane's electricity went out at least twice, and
two small fires broke out underneath the plane.
The airline's London office said the 300 passengers on Flight
VS001 were being bused to Newark on Wednesday morning.
"Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their
patience and apologise for any inconvenience cause," the airline
said in a statement.
Janine Doy, a Virgin spokeswoman in London, told The Associated
Press on Wednesday that Bradley "isn't used to dealing with
international flights" and had to call customs and immigration
officials back to the airport Tuesday night to process the
passengers. She said the airline was forced to keep people on the
"It was a situation that was beyond our control," Doy said.
"There were weather conditions. ... Bradley had to get customs and
immigration to the airport."
Doy was checking into reports of mechanical issues and the jet
not having the air conditioner running while it was stalled.
She said the planes have water fountains aboard, but she wasn't
sure if any food was left over after the in-flight meals had been
The three-hour limit on tarmac strandings that went into effect
in April doesn't apply to foreign carriers or international flights
by U.S. carriers, although U.S. carriers are required to have
contingency plans for returning passengers waiting for prolonged
periods on planes to airport terminals.
Earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed
extending the requirement for contingency plans to foreign
carriers. The proposal included a request for comment from airlines
and the public on whether the Transportation Department should also
extend a firm three-hour limit to international flights by U.S. and
"The events reported overnight in Connecticut reinforce my
belief that passengers have rights and are entitled to fair
treatment when they fly," LaHood said in a statement. "Our
aviation enforcement office will be looking into the incident to
determine whether any violations occurred."
Ken Cast, an airport operations specialist at Bradley, said
Virgin is not one of the airport's carriers and the airline had to
call in personnel to handle the passengers.
"Being an international flight, it's not like you can let
people wander aimlessly," Cast told the AP. "They need to be
processed, and they need to be kept safe. Everyone has to clear
"The rules still need to be followed," Cast said. "Everyone
was safe. They may have been uncomfortable, but they were safe.
It's better to be on the ground wishing you were somewhere else
than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground."
Cast confirmed that a few passengers who weren't feeling well
were treated by paramedics. Details on the sick passengers weren't
A Bradley Airport spokesman, John Wallace, said the airport
doesn't have a lot of international flights, and customs officials
generally work during the day. He says customs personnel got back
to the airport about an hour after being called Tuesday night.
"Everyone did the best they could under the circumstances,"
Wallace said. "The process to do clearance when you have 300
people is going to take a while, plus their luggage."
Bradley's only regular international passenger flights are to
and from Toronto and Montreal, but the airport does have many
international cargo flights, Wallace said.
The Virgin Atlantic flight was diverted as showers and strong
thunderstorms moved through the Northeast on Tuesday night.
Temperatures at Bradley International Airport were in the
mid-60s to low-70s with uncomfortable humidity at the time the
Virgin plane was on the tarmac, said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist
with the National Weather Service.