Here we go again! Another tarmac stranding incident — beware of outraged talking heads on TV

Here we go again! Another tarmac stranding incident — beware of outraged talking heads on TV
It seemed eerily familiar: A JetBlue aircraft, a freak storm, passengers stranded on an aircraft for hours — and all happened near the media capital of the world.

Except that it wasn’t Valentines Day 2007, the infamous ice storm that cost JetBlue its golden reputation, made a small-minded mainstream media obsessed with tarmac delays and led to tough but largely unnecessary new government rules on tarmac delays.

It was happening right now, in real time.

I was alerted to the stranding incident yesterday evening, when Marc Mucklow, a director for an office supply chain in Palm Beach, Fla., left a comment on my site saying he’d been trapped on a JetBlue plane in Hartford, Conn., for more than five hours.

He was taking me to task for a column in which I suggested we were going overboard with proposed new laws against tarmac delays.

“So much for it not still happening,” he wrote about the delays.

I’ll deal with Mucklow’s comment in a minute. But first let’s review a few details of this incident.

There’s a massive Nor’easter moving up the East Coast and the JetBlue flight was caught in it.

Let’s go straight to the tape.

Here’s what we know: The nightmare began when Flight 504 from Fort Lauderdale to Newark couldn’t land because of low visibility. After circling the airport, the flight was diverted to Hartford.

Once the flight landed, JetBlue tried to refuel the aircraft and return it to Newark. But it was unable to move the aircraft back on to the runway, and as a result, it went nowhere between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Here’s a play-by-play by someone who was on the plane.

Most of the passengers took the delay with good humor, even as the flight ran out of food and the toilets overflowed. But a few were understandably outraged.

“Everybody is freaking out here,” one traveler reportedly said. “They’re tired of it.”

JetBlue issued a statement yesterday evening apologizing for the incident, saying it was doing “everything possible” to ensure its customers were being cared for. (Update: JetBlue has posted an explanation on its blog.)

But JetBlue’s apology rings somewhat hollow, because it is in effect taking responsibility for the weather and for other circumstances that appear to be completely beyond its control. A massive snowstorm had hit the New York area. The airport reportedly wouldn’t tow the plane back to the runway.

“They have done everything they could,” one passenger told a Miami NBC affiliate, when asked about the airline’s efforts. “It is not JetBlue’s fault.”

I think everyone understands that tarmac delays won’t ever go away. (And, for the record, I’ve never claimed they’d been eliminated.) But the fact is they were — and still are — exceedingly rare.

Are they worth the government’s legislative scrutiny? Maybe. But there are many, many other issues that are more pressing and affect far more travelers, from price transparency to federal pre-emption. Some would have us believe this isn’t just the most pressing issue affecting air travelers — it is the only issue worthy of our attention.

And here’s the scary part. (After all, it is Halloween tomorrow.) Get ready for an earful of nonsense from self-appointed consumer advocates in heavy pancake makeup during the next news cycle. CNN has you on speed dial.

These so-called “experts” will tell us that the government must pass laws that would prevent tarmac delays. It’s an incredibly naive and simplistic solution to a complex problem. By most accounts I’ve heard, this latest tarmac incident was unavoidable. No law could have made the plane move any faster.

I sympathize with those who were trapped on the plane. It’s a horrible experience. Truly horrible.

But expecting us to drop everything to pursue another useless law — that would be the real horror.

(Photo: D R ust/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Sam

    here’s the thing – it wasn’t a “freak” snowstorm as much as it was an “early” snowstorm.  I live in NYC and work in Connecticut, and we were well aware of the predicted nor’easter as well as the snow estimates (up to 12″ of WET snow outside of the city) as early as Friday morning.  If NPR knew about it, and I knew about it, then JetBlue doesn’t get to pretend that it was caught completely unaware of the storm coming through.

    Plus, was there some reason these folks were forced to sit on an uncomfortable plane rather than disembark at least into the relatively nice comfort of the Hartford Airport?  I’ve been there and while it’s not a big airport, but they do have things like food. and bathrooms.  

    I think people are generally understanding of things like weather delays, but the “trapped on the plane” part of it just seems wholly unnecessary, particularly when everyone was well aware of how long the storm was going to last.

  • Richard Trilling

    While Jet Blue is NOT responsible for the weather, they are responsible for keeping people on the plane and not letting them deplaneto use restroom facilites and/or obtaining food and drink in the terminal.

    That’s why they should be fined.

    Richard Trilling

  • Mbods2002

    It just seems so awful to be trapped for so long with overflowing toilets, no food.  Why can’t something be done, while a plane is at the airport, about the toilets.  Is it impossible to get more food?  It’s not like they’re in the middle of nowhere.  WHY can’t passengers get off the plane and mill around the airport??  It just seems there’s absolutely no consideration for customers.  They are really being held hostage and it’s not right.  It’s beside the point as to why there’s a delay, just do the right thing for these poor people trapped for so many hours!

  • Bill

    There is no excuse for being stranded on a plane in a developed country like the United States of America.  None.  Especially in a place that does get snow.

  • Brian_in_Wien

    I don’t think I will ever understand the callous attitude Chris has regarding tarmac delays.  I hope that he will change his mind and become an advocate for stranded consumers.  I can only think that he has either not actually traveled much – and been subject to an incident – or travels mostly in business class, where it would be a relatively pleasant experience. 

    These incidents are certainly unpleasant as the babies fill their diapers, the smokers have nicotine withdrawal, the toilets overflow, and the flight attendants say they’re not allowed to feed people or give them drinks.  It can be life threatening for the diabetics.

    The airlines used to pack people into planes and taxi to the tarmac, knowing they couldn’t take off because of weather in the destination or some other reason.  They would do this because the incentives were structured to encourage this.  I think what drives most people crazy in these incidents is that the decisions made defy common sense.  You’re sitting a few feet from the relative comfort of the terminal, trapped.  The law now has changed the incentives and I am grateful, the airlines now think twice before stranding you. 

  • Z44212

    I agree. Jetblue can’t control the weather, but they can monitor and deal with it like everyone else. There is no reason the applicable laws and regulations should not be enforced.

  • BillC

    I am usually understanding of delays and will give airlines the benefit of the doubt in most cases but once a delay gets over two or three hours the passengers should be let off the plane.

  • TNT

    Can’t get back to the runway and Newark has snow, okay. But why in the world can’t you deplane the passengers? We can fly thousands of planes all over the world every day and we can’t deplane passengers and get them inside an airport terminal. What am I missing here?

  • Crissy

    Here’s the problem with Tarmac delays, they’re not only the responsibility of the airlines.  The airports need to be able to manage the planes too.  If the flight is given the green light that they’ll be able to take off and then the weather suddenly changes (I’m talking about a shift in the winds, not a snow storm they knew about) and they can’t take off, then the airport needs to have the equipment and gates – Chris says this was an issue with getting the plane back to a gate.  But I do know that the cold front moved in earlier then had been predicted the day before, which may have been a contributing factor. 

    Having said all that, the airlines do take a lot of blame for this too, pressure to move planes and people.  Also the logistics for airlines when they don’t have many flights out of an airport can be an issue.  I spoke to someone last year about the Cathay Pacific flight that got stuck at JFK after landing for 12 hours – that was the fault of the airline, they didn’t have a gate and were offered one in another terminal.  They declined it because they don’t have staff at that terminal.  Absolutely, that is the type of thing that deserves a fine.  But if the primary issue is an airport one, then I’m hesitant to fine an airline.

    Instead of legislating airlines perhaps the government should force airports to come up with contingency plans for stranded planes.  In the end an airline that gets fined loses money and is forced to charge more for tickets or increase fees – the bottom line is that it’s coming out of the pockets of travelers.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I can understand not being able to land at Newark, but why the heck couldn’t they pull up to a gate and get the people off? 

    That doesn’t make any freakin’ sense. I’ve been on a plane when we’ve had to turn around and go to a different gate because the stupid airline personnel in charge of an unaccompanied minor had gone to the wrong gate with the kid!

    So, someone, please explain to me why the plane couldn’t be “parked at the gate” for thirty minutes and the people let off?

    Is it because JetBlue doesn’t have any gates at this airport and no one was willing to let them “borrow” one? Were they trying to keep their PAX captive so they wouldn’t secure other travel plans? Were they trying to keep them from contacting the media?

    What is the deal?

  • PPG

    There is no reason why the people had to be trapped on that plane. Believe me, if the TSA had said “Those people have to be gotten off that plane,” they would have been gotten off the plane. Pronto. I know from experience that the TSA can get people deplaned in the middle of a tarmac literally miles from any terminal in less than in three minutes max–it happened to me in a “security” false alarm only a month ago, in Columbus.

    Maybe JetBlue is not responsible and, in fact, it’s probably the airport operator that is at fault. But somebody was being callous and uncaring here. And that’s a fact. 


  • Cbryan3838

    I have to believe this comes down to money.  Was there some cost involved in having the plane moved to a gate?  Does JetBlue not have gates at Hartford?  If not, is there some reason why there isn’t some agreement between airlines to allow someone to use a gate to deplane passengers who are trapped?  Clearly, there’s more to the story here that we don’t know.

  • Crissy

    “The airport reportedly couldn’t tow the plane back to the runway.”

    That’s from Chris’s article.  If that’s case then it’s an issue with the airport and the likely only other solution is to deboard from a tarmac, in the middle of the snowstorm.  I walked the streets of manhattan yesterday in the afternoon and almost slipped.

  • SoBeSparky

    Fact is, Flight Operations at Jet Blue knew all about this much forecasted storm.  Some might even say it was over-forecasted.  They decided to have the FLL flight take off anyway. 

    Most airlines now are not allowing planes to take off when there is a high probability of a tarmac delay and/or diversion.  They are proactively planning their weather-related issues.  This is what most successful companies do.  Proactive planning.

    The former model of reactive planning as advocated in the column above is a disaster, with equipment scattered all over the map after a weather problem, stranded passengers, tarmac delays.  Fine the company for very poor planning, among other things.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Ok, if it couldn’t be towed or taxi to the gate, how about getting buses out on the tarmac? Surely that couldn’t have taken nine hours?! Where were the buses coming from? Did they think to call a local school district and borrow a school bus?!?

    I’ve lived in New England and I’m familiar with snow storms. Yes, it’s unpleasant having to walk in the cold, wind, and snow, but you know…what’s the lesser of two evils? 

  • Christopher Elliott

    Are we reading the same story? I sympathize with the folks who were stuck on the plane. I say their rage is understandable. I call their ordeal “truly horrible.” How is that calloused?

    Are you suggesting tarmac delays are the only cause air travelers should be fighting for? Because if you are, I have just the organization for you to join. And I can also recommend a few media organizations from which you can get your news.

  • Erratapage

    1)  The snowstorm was forecasted days before this delay;
    2)   If the airplane can’t pull up to a gate, it should be able to get a set of stairs and a bus to deplane these people.  
    3)  It’s up to the airlines to work with the airports to ensure that there are contingency plans for this kind of situation.  Instead, they seem to be operating on the premise that it just won’t happen.
    4)  The reason it’s appropriate to fine airlines is because it is a fairly rare occurrence.  If it were common, we’d be talking about passenger compensation, major regulation changes, and criminal charges.
    5)  Being stranded in a plane for hours is beyond uncomfortable.  It meets all the elements of the tort of false imprisonment.  It is a major inconvenience, especially if you happen to be a little claustrophobic, prone to blood clots, have diabetes, or anxiety in general.

    In short, maybe the airport shares some of the responsibility for this situation, but the response should not be to let JetBlue off… it should be to require airports to prioritize the needs of stranded passengers appropriately. Tarmac delays are rare, but when they exceed two or three hours, they begin to be emergencies, and should be treated as such.

  • Carver

    Chris’ analysis is flawed because while he rightly states that these are rare, he understates or doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of the distress it can cause passengers.

    Imagine having to “go” and not being able to use the restroom for hours, realizing the real possibility of soiling yourself

    Being thirsty or hungry for hours, particularly given the number of metabolically challenged folks.

    But we shouldn’t blame Chris too much.  Until you are in that situation I suspect that its impossible to really understand its magnitude.  Most of us will never have to wait hours and hours to urinate, or be thirsty, etc.

  • Claire

    I don’t believe the government should go around fining airlines for tarmac delays, especially weather-related ones. I do believe that airports should be pressured/encouraged/enticing to make provisions to off-load passengers from delayed aircraft. Once upon a very long time ago (and still the case in smaller airports, there were no jetways, and deplaning passengers had to make their way down the stairs, across the tarmac and into the terminal. Are there no more rolling stairs at airports for such contingencies? A realize this would be a problem for disabled/mobility-impaired passengers, but why trap an entire planeload. Those passengers who are physically unable to handle the stairs would at least have an uncrowded aircraft to wait in (with a not-in-flight attendant, of course) — and no overflowing toilets. Claire @

  • Kym

    So someone with IBS, Crohn’s, or a weak bladder is just suppose to go in their pants?  Diabetics are suppose to pass out?  No, 7 hours without food or a bathroom should be illegal.  Being held against your will is called kidnapping.

  • TowerRat282

    7 HOURS?  Chris, can you hear yourself?  Your attitude is the same one that led to this being such an issue in the first place.  For years the airline and airport management’s attitude has be reflected as “Well, they’re in seats, just let them sit”.  An hour, maybe two, ok, I get it, BDL is only so big and 23 unexpected birds were on the ground. 

    But to claim they couldn’t be towed?  Ok, they got refueled, they can taxi, right?  No Gate? Last time I looked, airstairs are available at pretty much every airport capable of landing heavys.  Maybe, not for 747’s and A380’s, but JetBlue 504 is an A320.  

    What your survey doesn’t cover is should airports be equally punished?  Absolutely, SOMEBODY has to care about the health and welfare of the pass angers.  I’m really surprised that it’s not you Chris.

  • Brian_in_Wien

    Sorry Chris – you’re right, somehow my eye skipped over your sympathetic sentence.  I appreciate what you do, and I’ll read more carefully and look for such nuances next time.

  • TowerRat282

    Ok Chris, I KNOW you care about passengers, I’ve watched you do your thing here for years now.  And yes, this is ABSOLUTELY not the only problem we be concerned, maybe not even the 1st on the list (fixing ATC in my book is more important even than fixing TSA).  

    But, how else do we stop a avoidable attitude by the people involved?   I once spent 4 hours at Bloomington, IL on an ERJ to go to ORD, just 75 FEET from the terminal.  I’m have controllable diabetes, but if I need the bathroom, I REALLY need the bathroom. 

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I can see why JetBlue apologized, not so much for the weather but for the tarmac incident.  We ARE the “Apology Nation” after all, since January 2008 and the great “Apology Tour”.

    Sam here brings up the best point, the whole country was talking about the storm heading towards the area, friends of mine on FB were posting weather bulletins since Friday morning; how is it JetBlue didn’t know it was coming?

    In addition, didn’t the passengers on the plane know it was coming as well?  I’ve been in the position of having to fly somewhere and discovered a day or two in advance there was a strong chance of bad weather in my layover.  I’ve actually re-arranged my plans to avoid it (and the airline was more than a little helpful it this.  The CSR on the phone gave me a huge “thank you” for planning ahead like that) and give it a chance to get cleaned up so I didn’t get stuck in an airport in a strange city.  (And I’m really more than a little loathe to give this example because it makes me sound SO much like a “I’m better than all of you” road warrior)

    I voted “No” on the poll but now I’m not so sure…  I don’t know the government needs to get involved in every single aspect of my life but this shouldn’t be permitted to happen.  Not only should JetBlue be fined but the passengers should pass the hat to help them pay it.  They both carry some responsibility.

    Also, at times like this, the airports should be required to use any means necessary to get the passengers off the planes as expeditiously as possible, even if it means taking a stairway and shuttle bus out on the runway. Seven hours is far too long to sit in one of those cramped seats.

  • cjr001

    “The airport reportedly couldn’t tow the plane back to the runway. How was that JetBlue’s fault?”

    A better question or two: why was the airport unable to tow the plane back to the runway? Were conditions such that, even without being towed, the people could have been deplaned and taken to the terminal?

    Because that is the real problem here: even after all these years and all these incidents, the airports and airlines STILL don’t know how to deal with situations like this.

    Procedures apparently are STILL not in place to prevent people from being held hostage on a plane for hours on end.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I can’t remember the entire story, but Chris has talked about it on here, where a plane was forced to sit on the tarmac for hours because Delta wouldn’t give the airline permission to use one of their gates to allow passengers to disembark.  It was ugly, to be sure.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    It’s not what YOU are missing, it’s what THEY (the people in charge of this incident) are missing – common sense.

    You are using logic to find the proper solution here.  Logic and common sense seem to go on a vacation with the folks in charge of our health and well-being are on the case.

  • cjr001

    By the way, it apparently wasn’t just one, but TWO Jet Blue flights diverted to Bradley Airport that were stranded for hours for no damn good reason whatsoever.

  • Monica

    It sounds like the Jet Blue staff was doing their best.  It is the decision makers at the airlines and airports that need to learn that passengers are not monopoly pieces being moved around.  They are are humans with needs.  I find it incredible that fines and laws are necessary to get people to do the right thing.  I think the fine should be that these decision makers should be stuck on a plane for 7 hours and see how they like it.  

  • Djp

    Jet blue is responsible…not for the weather…but how they handled this before and after is the issue.

    They knew of this snowstorm on Friday morning more than 24 hrs before the flight. They said the big cities would be affected by snow..especially NYC.

    After they were diverted to Hartford they should have gotten a gate to unload the plane. Instead of siting on the Tarmac for hours burning the pilots clock time.

    The airlines need to have a response plan n place for these incidents.

    What did jet blue do to other flights? Were they all diverted to Hartford or did they divert them to other airports.

    Weather conditions are not an excuse to go past three hrs on the Tarmac.

  • HistoryNerd

    Airlines and airport management need to pay better attention to the weather.  While it’s not their fault that weather happens, this storm had been in the news for several days.  Obviously, this is a no-win proposition – airlines catch heat if they cancel flights, but they also catch heat if passengers spend hours miserable on a cramped plane without working toilets or food.  It’s not so much a matter of blaming airlines for bad weather, but for how they handle it.  

    I was stranded at the gate at JFK for 8 hours on a Virgin Atlantic international flight during the 2007 snow storm.  The plane was supposed to go to Boston, but we were diverted to JFK.  We were repeatedly lied to by the crew about when we were leaving, and one flight attendant was verbally abusive and threatened to have arrested a diabetic who complained that she needed something to eat.  Frankly, there was absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have let us off the plane into the terminal, so that we could use the facilities, etc, when it was clear that the plane was not going anywhere and wouldn’t be for some time.  Even the flight crew was let off, because they reached their 14 hour cap.  Since we were going to be cooling our heels for a while, waiting for a fresh crew.  Instead, we got a bunch of lies about FAA regulations not allowing passengers to deplane at a gate.

    We later learned, via the news, that JFK only had one de-icer available, even though they’re one of the busiest airports in the country and this was a massive storm that had been advertised as a blizzard for weeks.  There was absolutely no excuse for the way this was handled.  It was already snowing heavily for hours when our flight left London.  Virgin was irresponsible for not having canceled it.  JFK was grossly irresponsible for only having one piece of critical equipment available when they had ample warning of the storm.  Whoever made that call should have been fired, as should the flight attendants who mistreated passengers.

  • Bodega

    there are many, many other issues that are more pressing and affect far more travelers, from price transparency to federal pre-emption

    Really?  Being stranded on a plane for 7 hours in site of a buidling that has heat, water, functioning toliet, food isn’t pressing but figuring out that $3 PFC tax is more important?  I looked at the calendar and it isn’t April 1, so surely you jest? If the fire department was able to get to the plane, why were buses not brought out for other passengers?  I think this is a huge issue, far more important than worrying about those who book online not being able to figure out what they are paying for their luggage.  I think anyone would say the same if they were on that plane for 7 hours. 

  • Alan

    Hi everyone! What I don’t understand, is why the passengers were not escorted off the plane and taken to one of the terminals, where they would have been much more comfortable? And if there are security concerns, I’m sure the airport police could have provided it. The whole process would have only taken minutes. Yes, the passengers still would have been delayed, but they would have had better access to food and restrooms. Seems like common sense to me.

  • Grant

    Nothing is going to change until someday, somewhere, some outraged passenger gets up after five or seven or nine hours and OPENS THE DOOR. I’m amazed that it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Clare

    Your comment about being lied to is right-on!  The opposite is true, too: a few years ago I was flying Lufthansa to DCA from Munich on a VERY hot and hazy summer day–and a tremendous thunderstorm-from-hell hit Washington RIGHT when we were supposed to land.  We had to divert to Baltimore because we were running out of fuel.
    When we on the tarmac in Baltimore, a bunch of pax wanted to know if they couldn’t just deplane there, since they were headed to Baltimore anyway?  But the airport wouldn’t allow it. 
    In the end, we were several hours late.  BUT here’s the thing: the Lufthansa flight-attendants kept us constantly informed of EVERYTHING.  Why we weren’t landing.  Where we were going and why.  How long we were planning to be there.  “I don’t know whether pax can deplane here in Baltimore, but I’ve contacted the airport and I will let you know their answer as soon as I get it.”  Why people couldn’t get off in Baltimore.  What time we would take off again, and when we would land.  Constant updates!  And if they didn’t know the answer, they told us so and tried to get one–how’s that for honesty?!
    In the end, a very big and very full plane-ful of pax were naturally unhappy about what had happened, but we weren’t furious at Lufthansa.  They bent over backwards to tell us what was going on, and it was clear to all that they really were doing their best!
    There’s a lesson to US carriers here somewhere…

  • Clare

    Sorry, I just realized I wrote DCA but it was IAD–Lufthansa doesn’t fly into DCA…

  • Unicorn1824

    Thst person would be arrested immediately and 3 days later be on every talk show in America.

  • Alan

    “I’ve actually re-arranged my plans to avoid it (and the airline was more than a little helpful it this.  The CSR on the phone gave me a huge “thank you” for planning ahead like that)…”

    In this era of the non-refundability of virtually everything, how many of us plebeians have the opportunity to do what you did?

  • Lchase577

    I don’t think they should be fined, but isn’t there some way to get the people off the plane?

  • Amaiero

    I agree with most of what has been said. One poster said that the passengers bear some of the blame but I am not sure I agree. Yes the passengers knew of the storm coming and chose to travel anyway but why should they assume they would be treated like cargo? Just because they were traveling during a snowstorm doesn’t make it ok to treat them in such an inhumane manner.
    I would also like to add that the airports should be fined not just the airline. If the airport is refusing accommodate an airline for whatever ridiculous reason then they are equally or more responsible for the situation than the airline. Airports and airlines need to learn to work together to prevent these types of situations. Who owns what gate and niggling airport rules are petty issues that need to be set aside in favor of human decency. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect not held hostage on a plane unable to meet the most basic needs. Yes tarmac delays are rare but they also tend to be extremely inhumane bordering on dangerous and that is why they cannot be ignored.
    I also agree with Chris in that issues like this make for good sound bites and the media jumps to haul out “experts” and sound the alarm because nothing gets viewers like a human interest story. I am not saying that it is not a worthy story or a very important issue but the way it will be handled by the media it will divert attention from the other pressing issues and in turn set back progress made on other very important and pressing issues concerning passenger rights.
    I think what Chris is trying to say is that by working on the many everyday and common ways that passengers are mistreated and disrespected media/passenger will have a greater impact on passenger treatment and that will benefit everyone much more than having an acute focus on a rare event such as this. I am sure that the reinventing and rewriting of passenger rights would have an impact on tarmac delays as well. By keep the legislative focus on the greater issues at hand there will be a benefit to a greater number of people including those stuck on the tarmac.

  • Amaiero

    I am not sure I agree with firing the flight attendants as they have little control over the whole situation they have to do what the pilot and the airline says to do. They are already mistreated enough in the industry. I am not saying there aren’t bad ones or that should be able to mistreat a passenger but they are the least responsible for tarmac delays and have the least power to do anything.

  • Crissy

    I deal with the National Weather Service on a near daily basis at my job.  They’re pretty good at predicting storms.  They are NOT good at predicitng timing until the last minute – particularly they are bad at when a storm will change it’s form.  On Friday they were said the storm would turn to snow in the late evening in NYC, it looked like a blizzard at noon.  Just because a storm is coming doesn’t mean they have the proper data about the timing of the storm.  In this case this may have lead airlines to fly planes believing that they would be landing before the storm came and when the storm hit earlier then planned left the airlines diverting planes.

  • flutiefan

    wait…so “most of the passengers took the delay with good humor,” but “EVERYBODY was freaking out”??? methinks The Traveler was exercising hyperbole.

    in any case, unless you’ve worked for an airline, you really don’t understand the complexities of an airport’s operation. i know i sure didn’t before i was hired.
    in this case, there was absolutely nothing JetBlue could do–and the passengers acknowledge they tried everything possible. no, “airstairs” aren’t available at every airport. maybe you think they SHOULD be, but the fact is, THEY’RE NOT. and if the plane was stuck out on the tarmac, how do you think an airstair could drive through it just fine? gimme a break. 

    as for those saying we should “be prepared”…the news reports said it would be just a sprinkling of snow here in NYC, nothing would stick, and upstate would get the bulk of the storm. totally was NOT the case.

  • flutiefan

    because if the plane cannot get to the gate, then the ramp agents cannot hook up the equipment to drain the lavatories. it’s not like they just open a trap door and the waste just drops out (despite reports of blue ice falling from the sky!).

  • flutiefan

    i live in NYC and the news reports made it sound like this area would be no big deal, the snow wouldn’t even stick.  they said inland and north of us would get the worst of it.  also, it was supposed to hit in later afternoon/early evening, yet at Noon was when i saw the first snow falling.

  • flutiefan

    and usually they are just repeating the information they’ve been given… NOT “lying” to you on purpose. jeeeez.

  • flutiefan

    EXACTLY. thank you!  THIS IS WHY airlines were allowing planes to take off from 2-3 hours away (and further) at 11am EST. they had no idea the storm was gonna hit at noon!

  • flutiefan

    oh, and they also said it would be hitting in late afternoon/early evening.  so when it was noon and it looked like a blizzard outside, we were all caught quite underprepared. [no i don’t work for JetBlue or in Hartford]. our inbound aircraft had already boarded and was waiting to fly to NYC when it hit…after about an hour, they called it off and we had to cancel the rest of our flights as very very few aircraft were getting in. and yet i was yelled at by passengers in the terminal. we can’t win.

  • Sommer Gentry

    You seem to know something of what the difficulty could have been, which is what all the other posters here are asking about.  Can you explain again why was it so hard to deplane the passengers?  Was there no gate at the airport that could accomodate the aircraft?  Couldn’t the plane be prioritized for whatever emergency equipment the airport has, and get a small path plowed to get the plane back to the terminal or to get an airstair out to the plane?  If all else failed, couldn’t they exit on the emergency slides and walk back to the terminal? 

    I have to assume, unless a far more convincing argument is forthcoming, that the airline and airport decided to kidnap and imprison those passengers in unacceptable conditions.  I simply don’t believe that there was no alternative solution.  I’m assuming until better justification can be offered that the imprisonment happened because doing the right thing would have cost too much.

  • BillN

    Why didn’t this plane go to the terminal? The airport is just as responsible, they should be fined too.

  • AirlineEmployee

    What do you mean, “they were unable to move back onto the runway”…..were they in a holding area ?   The only way they would not be able to move is if a mechanical problem prevented them from doing so.  Otherwise, sounds like they should have just been dispatched to the terminal.  This is the fault of Jet Blue and whatever airport control tower was supposed to be doing their job.  FINE THEM the applicable $25,000 per passenger (since no airline has yet to be fined – excuses have been made/ overlooked).   If you’re going to have a law / penalty – THEN USE IT !!

  • Raven_Altosk

    I don’t understand why someone didn’t pick up the phone, call a local school district and say, “Hey, we got a situation. Can we borrow a couple of buses? We’ll pay the driver’s overtime and X amount.”

    School buses in New England have SNOW TIRES, if not CHAINS. I used to go to school in 6-8 inches of snow. So, why didn’t someone bother to try and get a bus to help those on plane?

    Interestingly enough, when one PAX was having health issues and called 911, the police and fire were able to get on the plane. Without airstairs…???

  • Sershev

    Why didn’t they pepper off the plane if the airport would not tow it backbto a runway? One thing is to hang out inside the terminal and another to be inside the plane for additional 5 hours. I was on United flight from ORD to LGA and as we were taxiing to a runway in Chicago, New York airport got closed due to storm. Initially our plane and several other planes parked on tarmac. But after 20 minutes our plane returned back to the terminal and they let us off the plane for three hours so we were able to use facilities and buy food. As soon as New York airports reopened we boarded and took off. Yes we lost about half an hour for reboarding and taxiing but we weren’t inside the plane for extra hours.

  • Asian SM in Montreal

    Sarah Palin used a JetBlue plane in her 2008 Campaign, no wonder she got to nowhere and still stranded in Alaska since and for at least 4 years.

  • Andi330

    Assuming that Chris’ article is correct and it was actually the AIRPORT that refused to come out and tow the plane in so that the passengers and staff could deplane, that was beyond JetBlue’s control.

  • Sommer Gentry

    I sympathize.  Passengers shouldn’t yell at you because weather cancels their flight.  I agree there’s sometimes nothing an airline can do to get you to you destination in a snowstorm.   Passengers do sometimes have to hunker down and wait it out.

    However, it’s hard for me to understand how it could have been impossible to get the passengers on this JetBlue flight to a terminal so they could access food, water, and restrooms.

  • Meredith Putvin

    I voted no for this reason…

    “Obviously, we would have preferred deplaning much sooner than we did,
    but our flights were six of the 23 reported diversion into Hartford,
    including international flights. The airport experienced intermittent
    power outages, which made refueling and jetbridge deplaning difficult”

    Now, Jetblue is refunding all customers on that flight as well. But, While Jetblue could have cancelled that flight, they had no control over the Power outages.

  • $16635417

    WOW! We just got our power back and I am surprised at the reaction. Where is the crowd that said the airlines OVER-reacted and cancelled too many flights a couple months back before Irene?

  • Trvlnby

    Flying out of Atlanta, I rarely encounter the “snow” factor, but I remember one winter day when the taxiways/runways iced over and it was impossible to taxi or tow aircraft. It does happen. Now Jet Blue sould do what the Big Airlines do and just shut down operations when there is even a hint of snow and ice. You strand thousands of passengers for days on end, but at least they are stranded in warm well equipped airports. As long as you have and Kate Hanni, better err on side of caution and keep those planes out of the air.

  • Trvlnby

    Its easy to armchair quarterback this, but hard to really know all the facts. There are conditions such as icing vs snow that make operations impossible. Tugs and Airport Equipment freeze in place and/or cannot be driven on the surfaces, unlike snow which can be plowed or removed. Most emergency vehicles have the weight and tires to operate even on ice and can therefore reach the stranded aircraft. Fire trucks are also high enough to reach the doors of these jets. As for using the slides to Deplane passengers; not a good idea as injuries are sure to happen. 
    Fault with Jet Blue is they tried to operate this flight, not what happened after the diversion. They should of stayed in Ft. Lauderdale 

  • Jrav

    They could get a Tug to come out and get that plane? They couldnt drive some air stairs out to that plane? There was NOT enough done…..I take my hat off to the cabin crew! Those pilots should have been demanding orders

  • Penny

    You are an idiot.

  • MikeLink

    “…the airline and airport decided to kidnap and imprison those passengers in unacceptable conditions.”

    You don’t actually work for a living, do you?  A lot of soap operas?

  • Lemmie

    “Being held against your will is called kidnapping.”

    OK, I’ll bite with your delusional remarks.  No one stopped them from yanking open the door, inflating the chutes (automatic), and deplaning.  So if you’re free to go how is this kidnapping?  You people amaze me with your crazy analogies.

  • Anna

    Let’s get real here; nobody is gonna want to accept liability for such an unauthorised de-planing… do that, and you’ll be facing a $25m lawsuit because somebody’s pet snake got frostbite in its toes. Or something. The liability situation is different in case of a passenger emergency, and the emergency workforce does not have the capacity to play airport shuttle. “Somebody is in cardiac arrest, you say? Sorry, we’re busy de-planing grumpy passengers; call again in half an hour…”

  • Raven_Altosk

    And you don’t think the PAX are going to file “emotional distress” lawsuits for being trapped on the plane?

    I’m sure some of them have already contacted lawyers.

    Not that I agree with their claim, but considering some the BS lawsuits people file, well…

  • Unicorn1824

    I’m claustrophobic AND diabetic, so the thought of being stuck on the tarmac for any period of time sends me into a sugar-based panic crash. Having said that, I wonder how much of the anger over this is actually being stuck on the tarmac or being stuck on the tarmac fully informed with food, water and bathrooms available. Why not work towards that? The airlines and airports need to anticipate that planes may be stuck on the tarmac and work out ways to get essential services to those people. And while you’re at it, a little incentive never hurt (“for your trouble, everyone gets extra miles”) or such….

  • Dave

    After reading the readily available information (which is more than just this blog), I voted no.  Consider:

    1.  JetBlue was not the only airline diverting flights to BDL.  They accounted for only 6 of 23 flights.  The airlines don’t coordinate with each other as to where everyone should divert.

    2.  BDL has exactly 23 gates.  It’s not likely they were all empty, just waiting for these diverted flights.

    3.  There is obviously some faulty reporting (reference the line “tow the plane back to the runway”).  Aviation writers should be required to pass a written test on terminology before they’re allowed to write sensationalist articles.

    4.  There were numerous, intermittent power outages at the airport, complicating matters.

    5.  The roads outside the airport were reported as too hazardous to get buses to the airport.  While I’m quite familiar with BDL, I don’t know where buses would be found locally, so can’t comment on this one qualitatively.

    6.  No mention is made of the icing conditions at the airport, but it’s quite possible that it was unsafe to drive top-heavy portable stairs out to a plane parked away from the terminal.  Again, not enough information to make an informed judgment here.

    JetBlue undoubtedly could have handled this better, but the main question I have is whether BDL should have been the diversion point; looks to me like IAD, a major B6 hub, would have been a better choice in this particular weather situation (IAD is also much better prepared for off-gate parked aircraft).

  • smkster

    Granted that in this incident, Jet Blue truly did everything
    in its power to remedy the situation. But the laws are needed because the
    year-after-year stranding of passengers was caused as much by airline’s
    indifference than by weather alone.  I am
    trying to recall the last stranding that caused people to spend the night on a
    small aircraft.  You recall it, Chris, a
    low level Delta commuter employee who refused to allow the plane into the gate
    because she thought that TSA needed to be there.  TSA did not need to be there but she was too
    stupid to call and find out and none of her superiors cared one way or the
    other.  Yeah, we need laws to protect us
    against that kind of indifference and I don’t care how rarely it happens.  

  • Gratianus

    Forget about legislation designed to make airlines more responsive to travelers’ needs. We need legislation to make weather conditions more responsive to travelers’ needs. Also, what does Chris mean when he writes that JetBlue’s apology “rings hollow?” I always thought “rings hollow” reflects a lack of sincerity. It seems that what JetBlue did was apologize for something it could not control. Finally, why couldn’t the passengers be deplaned once it was clear no one was going to go anywhere for quite a while?

  • Charles

    I also read the linked page from Jet Blue. I was inclined to vote yes before I read it, but definitely do, now. Two things stood out to me:

    “We worked with the airport to secure services, but our flights were six
    of the 23 reported diversions into Hartford, including international
    flights (picture big jets carrying hundreds of people). Getting all the
    flights deplaned at the same time in a small airport is not unlike
    trying to get an elephant into a smart car; it’s not an easy fit.”

    But, it wasn’t at the same time. It was 7 hours. Are you telling me it took an airline and airport 7 hours to deplane 23 planes? All they needed to do was tow planes from the gate to holding areas and they could have deplaned everyone. It’s an airport. They have snowplows. They don’t send them north for the summer.

    “A special thank you goes out to John, our General Manager Hartford and
    his team for working through the night and into today to recover the
    operation there.”

    Let’s not only have one of the most egregious tarmac strandings ever, let’s also pat the general manager on the back. Well done, John? Well done would have been NOT being in the news the next day.

  • Dang Ph

    I wonder if they are horrific Tarmac Delays anywhere else in the world with hours on the planes waiting for deplaning. I remember I already deplaning and walked in the snow in Geneva GVA, Paris ORY and Montreal YUL. May be because the Airlines in US afraid of litigation in case of accident ?

  • Christopher Elliott

    Dave, I agree that there was some faulty (and incomplete) reporting. The MSM definitely had its weekend crew working on this, which is how you got likes like “tow the plane back to the runway.” It wasn’t until the afternoon that we got a clearer picture of the event.

  • Gregpaul

    I certainly understand you couldn’t refuel, tow the plane, etc. But I just can’t understand why ANY multi-passenger vehicles already at the airport (including, let’s face it some buses that the law of averages say were present) car rental shuttles, airport shuttles, even large SUVs owned by the airlines could not have been commandeered to drive out to the lane(s). Ever hear of an old-fashioned set of mobile stairs? People used to use these every day for every trip back in the day; no one died. It seems extremely sensible to have these around. As for “safety” being the reason people can’t deplane, have a waiver form in which they and their offspring in perpetuity, etc etc agree that is they are so stupid they can’t walk down a flight of stairs they can just wait onboard. Finally, why can’t service vehicles operate in emergencies to pump holding tanks, refill water and bring food? There are already done at the gate, so why can’t they just drive a few thousand yards further o reach the planes when they are NOT at the gate? Logically, it makes no sense.

  • Rabbit1824

    Well I don’t know what you asked for, but considering my predisposition to severe emotional distress, I usually ask for at least $10,000 compensation. Seems reasonable to most people I talk to.

  • Z44212

    If 23 planes were diverted here, why were the passengers of this ONE plane kept on board for seven hours?

  • Linda Bator

    But if you can READ — they were diverted to Hartford instead of Newark due to low visibility — and the airport would not tow them — they had no alternative in this case — so calling the airline responsible in this case is ridiculous.  they were cleared to fly, but things got worse close to their destination, and then they were diverted.  Completely out of their hands. 

  • Linda Bator

    But as it says, they were cleared to fly into EWR, but then could not land due to low visibility and were diverted to Hartford.  THEY have no option to land when ATC wouldn’t clear them — so obviously after they were cleared in Florida, the weather got increasingly worse, leaving them no options.

  • Linda Bator

    But if the airport refuses to tow them, what are they supposed to do?  Open the doors and let them wander around the tarmac???

  • Linda Bator

    Amen!  The airport couldn’t tow them, and this was an airport they were diverted to, so probably no presence there, so at the airport’s mercy (of which there apparently is none).  The government needs to start looking at the airports’ role in delays before blanket blames of the airlines. 

  • Linda Bator

    But they HAVE to be cleared by ATC — so when they got a green light till the actual time to land, the visibility had gotten worse, and ATC diverted them to Hartford.  The airlines can’t just decide not to fly any planes because the weather looks bad — or all you posters will be screaming they left you stranded with no way home!!!    

  • Linda Bator

    But if you are a diabetic, you know tho carry food in case of emergencies – especially since the airlines don’t serve food anymore.  I don’t mean to sound harsh, because I fully believe there are ways the airport can control this situation.  They just choose not to, and let the airlines get all the flak.  When the airlines have no control over moving ladders and buses over to the aircraft.

  • Linda Bator

    The AIRLINES do not choose where to divert the flights – ATC does.  And ATC either clears the takeoff, based on conditions at the final destination, or grounds them.  Since it is obvious most folks here seem to think the airlines make all these decisions, and NOT the ATC/airports, let me clear up the confusion — ATC diverts the flights, no choice in the matter.  Airports decide what equipment at the airport can/cannot be used by these airlines.  So it is the airport that is responsible for not assisting the passengers onboard.  And that is what the government has failed to address in this matter (and believe me, it is NOT just domestically, either)

  • SoBeSparky

    No, Linda.  Airlines cancel flights for a multitude of reasons all the time.  Yes, they can “just decide not to fly any planes because the weather looks bad…”  They do it all the time.  Far easier to reroute people from FLL rather than most any airport to which the flight might be diverted.  FLL handles 22 million passengers a year, a great place to reroute passengers to get them to their destination as quickly as possible. 

  • Linda Bator

    Psychic airlines?  ATC CLEARED the flight, as the weather had NOT hit yet, nor was expected until later that day.  These things can happen, and the airports are the ones the government needs to ensure are prepared — jetways, airstairs, etc are their responsibility after all.

  • Linda Bator

    AMEN!!!   The airlines just can’t win – this was a fluke due to the weather was forecast and tracked as being further north and later in the day — so when ATC cleared the flight, and THEN the weather changed, everyone was caught behind the eight ball.  I guess everyone here just NEVER make mistakes!

  • Z44212

    It could be that airlines and airports lack this equipment. Which begs the question of why. Maybe a few fines will help their thought processes.

    Quite frankly, I don’t care how they FEEL about the law. Follow it and enforce it.

  • Stuart Murray

    Sounds familiar.   Remember Katrina and “Heck of a job, Brownie!”

  • Linda Bator

    It WASN’T just this one plane — but Chris only has the ONE person he is dealing with.

  • Linda Bator

    Try Japan after the earthquake — flights were stranded on the tarmac 12-13 hours or more.  It can happen, although it is rare.

  • Matt Tillotson

    ABC was running comments from the pilot this morning condemning his own airline and praising the airport for its assistance; this runs counter to what you are saying, Chris.

    JetBlue had to understand the PR nightmare that was headed its way given its history; I can’t believe they have no contingency plan in place to take on a stranded plane issue. 

  • Christopher Elliott

    That’s an excellent question. As I’ve said before, this is 1) a complex problem that can’t be dealt with by simply punishing airlines and 2) it’s not the only — nor is it the most important — issue facing air travelers.

    Until we find a way to hold airports, air traffic control, the local power grid, union work rules and the TSA accountable, we won’t be able to get this issue under control. Simply punishing the airlines, or threatening to punish them, or passing punitive laws, is not a practical solution.

  • NSG

    How come no one has mentioned that if it were up to the airline and ATC they’d still be sitting there?  THE ONLY WAY THEY GOT OFF WAS BECAUSE SOMEONE CALLED 911 AND THEY WERE “RESCUED” BY FIRE AND POLICE.

  • Michael K

    According to Jet Blue’s blog (linked in Chris’ article), the stumbling block was that 23 flights (including international jumbo jets) were diverted to Hartford — carrying more people than the terminals could accomodate.  And the airport intermittently lost power as well.

    I don’t care who’s “fault” it is.  It should be a requirement for every airport (and airline) to have emergency resources on hand to address these types of situations.  Hartford is close enough to several much larger airports that it is forseeable that this type event will happen occasionally, and they should be prepared with contingency plans.  

    There is no excuse for not having the equipment and people on hand during a forecasted storm to handle plane bathroom maintenance and food/water delivery for diverted planes at a bare minimum.  

    There is no excuse for not having emergency backup power to handle essential operations.  

    There is probably also a lot that can be done to arrange for the transport of any overflow passengers to ordinarily non-public areas of the airport or to nearby airport vicinity hotels and conference centers.

  • JustAnn8

    CNN played some the pilot’s calls for help, and the tapes made it very clear that Jet Blue was trying very hard to take care of their guests. If the airport couldn’t tow them in, how is that Jet Blue’s fault? Would it have been better to preemptively cancel all flights through the areas that were supposed to get the worst weather? If that had happened, people would be up in arms about that. I usually don’t stick up industries that constantly screw us, but I had no other choice this time.

  • Linda Bator

    Right – and the fallout from “posters” here in the past will tell you how well cancelling a flight when others have landed goes over.  When there is no clearcut reason to cancel, an airline won’t decide to — only when things look bad will they choose to — it takes too much to clear it all up, and the passengers give them holy hell when they can’t fly!

  • Ben

    That’s actually not correct.  It is the airline that files for alternate airports in their flight plans.  You could tell ATC that you want to divert to Bangkok if you wanted to.  Point of fact is that Hartford was probably the alternate airport JetBlue filed for and that’s where they went when EWR’s weather went down.  There’s simply no excuse for stranding people on an aircraft for seven hours or more.  JetBlue was the poster child for getting the government involved in this crap in the first place and they have yet again proved they’re still incapable of intelligently handling the situation. It’s all the worse in that BDL is a JetBlue city, so they didn’t have the excuse that another airline wouldn’t cooperate.

  • Bodega

    You couldn’t pay me enough to work at the airport.  You can’t win, yet you are on the front lines having to take the abuse.  I don’t know where you work or what airline you work for, but in case I have have ever passed through your lines or will in the future, please accept my thanks now!

  • john4868

     Sorry but JetBlue doesn’t own all of the responsibility for this one. Some of the fines need to be levied against the airport.  
    The sad fact is that airplanes have a limited amount of fuel on board. After that is expended, they turn into very poor gliders so JetBlue had to put its aircraft on ground somewhere (eventually it would end up as a farmer’s field otherwise).
    Hartford accepted the incoming planes (and I’m sure the landing fees / Jet fuel sales associated with those aircraft) and, at that point, accepted responsibility for the passengers onboard the aircraft. At the point that they were overwhelmed and couldn’t take care of the planes they had, they should have closed the field to inbound aircraft.
    Sorry but the Hartford Airport bares the majority of the responsibility for debacle and not the airlines. An elementary school kid could have figured out how to deplane everyone by rotating planes through gates and somehow Gander figured out how to handle exponentially more aircraft than it’s designed to hold on 9/11 without leaving people stranded on aircraft. To me its seems that Hartford just didn’t care.
    Hopefully, Hartford pays the price and not JetBlue.

  • Fedor Pikus

    The legislation is needed and should hit both the airline and the airport. If the airline did not request that the passengers be removed from the plane, it’s the airline’s fault. If the airline did request it, and the airport refused, it’s the airport’s fault and it should pay penalties. If the airport cannot tow the plane back, they should send a bus and evacuate the passengers. If the airport cannot evacuate the passengers, they are clearly not prepared to handle a possible emergency and should be closed until they have better emergency response in place.

  • Michael K

    Airport ground operations (including airport and airline personnel) need to be prepared to deal with these situations.  This is no less important than airport security screening IMO.  Are we going to wait for an incident with preventable passenger deaths before we require the thorough emergency planning that’s needed to deal with this scenario?

    Secondarily, as long as some airports are not adequately prepared, then airlines should “blacklist” those airports and make every effort to divert elsewhere (i.e. at well-equipped airports only) if they can safely do so.

  • flutiefan

    and i experienced that holy hell on Saturday.

  • flutiefan

    and THAT’S actually not correct.  it all depends on where the plane is when they get the diversion call. ATC makes the ultimate choice.

  • flutiefan


  • flutiefan

    Trvlnby, i was with you until the last 2 sentences. Linda is right.  at the time of takeoff from FL, the weather was not anticipated to hit for several hours. ATC gave them the go-ahead, and yes they huddle with the NYC ATC before allowing such a thing. how was anyone to know the cold front would swoop in without warning so quickly? i was literally wearing short sleeves when it hit! i thought i’d have hours to go get my coat!  why WOULDN’T JetBlue operate this flight when it was just expected to be brisk here in NYC?

  • Ann919

    JetBlue has a bunch of exec who make north of $500,000 plus stock. I would suggest they talk to all airports under their routes and all the politicans in DC/FAA to ensure JetBlue passengers never again get dumped at an airport that can’t service the planes.

    See, jetBlue can actually learn how to run their biz without jailing its passengers. Or the CEO can learn how to deplane customers. But the “I don”t know” attitude has to go away. Buck stops with JetBlue.

  • Bill

    Maybe Jetblue shouldn’t be fined, but someone should get their butt kicked.  This is completely and absolutely unacceptable.  What they did at 9 pm, they could have done earlier.  There’s no excuse for keeping those people on that plane so long.  Airports need to make sure they are equipped.  Airlines need to have arrangements made.  Did someone light up a cigarette on that plane?  What if someone did?  What would have happened?  Stupid mess.

  • Geoff

    State of emergency declared. Trump card – no investigation! WVU vs Rutgers was at Rutgers. There were times that you could not see the footbal. How was the pilot supposed to see or do a thing? Time to spare – go by air.

  • jbuttel

    If the problem of people being stuck on grounded aircraft can’t be fixed, why bother with anything else.  Unless those fines are imposed on airlines, no one is going to take responsibility for solving the problem.  Businesses have a way of making things work (that they say are impossible to solve) if they have an incentive.  I agree with you that in the big picture there are more compelling problems that affect many more people.  At the same time it seems like your argument is similar to saying that because only a very very small number of people die in airline crashes every year, the media attention and outrage people feel when a plane crashes are misplaced.  I’m not saying that being trapped on a plane is equivalent to crashing in one, just that your logic seems similar. 

  • Christopher Elliott

    People are dying in tarmac stranding incidents? Did I miss something?

  • Trvlnby

    One thing to keep in mind is that the New York airspace is the most congested in the world and even on good days, delays are inevitable.
    No airline wants to risk having passengers or even aircraft stuck in an airport during bad weather. If you ever notice bad weather forcast for any given city, look at airline websites and you will notice cancellations into that city. Better to keep airplanes and passengers in Dallas or Atlanta, than risk what happened in Hartford. This storm had been forcast for days and may have come faster than expected, but most airlines cut their schedules and losses prior to the event.

  • gromit82

    I’m pretty sure it would have been illegal for a passenger to open the door, inflate the chutes, and deplane, without authorization. So that’s not really a viable option.

  • gromit82

    Actually, it’s called false imprisonment, not kidnapping.

  • Guest

    If what JetBlue said is accurate and real based on their blog:

    “We worked with the airport to secure services, but our flights were six of the 23 reported diversions into Hartford, including international flights (picture big jets carrying hundreds of people). Getting all the flights deplaned at the same time in a small airport is not unlike trying to get an elephant into a smart car; it’s not an easy fit. As if things weren’t challenging enough, the airport experienced intermittent power outages, which made refueling and jetbridge deplaning difficult (not to mention the roads there were bad, which put a wrench in getting buses to the airport to alternatively get everyone where they needed to go).”

    That’s why. Of course, it can’t be helped some people think they’re just making excuses, even if JetBlue said what’s surely accurate and real.

    What I’m probably missing is if someone from JetBlue at least told the passengers on-board what’s going on, why they can’t depart the plane ASAP, etc. Not that that will satisfy some passengers, though it turns out most of the passengers weren’t belligerent about the whole thing.

    I’m sure JetBlue’s expecting the worse, anyway, and preparing for it as much and best as they can. It’s just a shame some people still feel they don’t care enough.

    Speaking of which, what exactly is enough anyway?

  • TowerRat282

    And THAT ladies and gentlemen is the basis for the fines in the first place!!!  The airlines fear of the threat of those fines is why this flight was delayed and why you were allowed to return to the terminal and deplane.  

    5 years ago, you would have had to sit on the taxiway, or in a hammerhead and waited for the ATC to reopen the flyway.  One – two hours was COMMON in this condition, three or four hours was uncommon, but not unheard of.

    SMACK an obvious offender like this one, and the others WILL be watching.  Threats don’t work…. Money off the bottom line does.

  • Cheryl

    Instead of looking to fine the guilty and handing the money to whom (?) , what about compensating the passengers on the plane? 

  • Bodega

    There are questions that I have about preparedness airports have in place.  I flew into SFO ,at night, awhile back and the flight was a little late, nothing bad.  But there was nobody to bring the jetway to the plane to get us off.  It appeared that everyone had gone home for the night and the pilot keep requesting service for our plane.  How can they not know a plane is due to arrive? Ground personnel were there.  How can these airports not have contigency plans to get people off a plane and into the terminal, in various siutations?  How can they not have customs personnel available on call for international flights?

    It is like at a hospital.  At night, certain medical personnel are not at the facility but they are on call and get to the hospital within minutes of a notification.  Firefighters will move closer to their base if they think they may be needed and not wait for that call.  I expect this of airports, too.  Actually we need to demand it! 

    From listening to the recordings of the JetBlue pilot, it was the airport not responding to the need.

  • Unicorn1824

    As the sayings goes, you don’t ask, you don’t get…

  • patricia murray

    Chris, you know that is NOT what he meant!

  • Richard

    Why is it always JetBlue? I think I have the reason why. The airports don’t give a crap about this particular airline, which has very little pull because its an upstart that tries to outsell the conglomerates and it doesn’t have as many flights as Southwest (which is also a cheap airline). I’ve never been on a JetBlue flight that hasn’t been at least 25th in line to go — and at most 65th!! – and Delta/United/American flights are always one, two or five. There’s definitely favoritism at work and as far as JFK is concerned JetBlue is as good as dead to them. I haven’t seen this proven wrong.

  • Richard

    In the end I’m sure after two or three hours I’d be one of those persons who pulls the shoot. At this point it’s that or going ballistic. the fine is the same for both!

  • Nancy Dickinson

    You believe yourself to be a plebeian?  Perhaps some therapy with this self-esteem issue you have might be helpful?

  • Rosered7033

    I see this thread is a week old, and forgive me if this question has been posed, buty WHY would the ATC divert 23 jets to Hartford alone?  Was there any consideration to spread these out so that one airport would not have to handle the overload?  Yes, I understand fuel might be a problem, but for gosh sakes, we have brains we should be engaging for problems like this.

  • Michael K

    An interesting new tarmac delay story on Nov 17 2011.  I don’t think this would ever have occurred to me:

    A nearly 9-hour flight delay turned into a standoff at Hong Kong airport Wednesday, with passengers refusing to leave the plane for 5-hours until the airline agreed to higher compensation.