JetBlue Flight That Left Passengers Stranded for 7 Hours Investigated

A diverted flight left passengers on the tarmac for more than nine hours.

October 31, 2011, 4:14 AM

Oct. 31, 2011— -- Airline and train travelers were diverted and halted from their final destinations this weekend as harsh weather across the Northeast crippled airline and Amtrak service, with some passengers stuck for up to 14 hours.

The government is now investigating a Jet Blue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Newark, N.J., that left travelers stranded on the tarmac at the wrong airport for more than seven hours.

The JetBlue pilot ultimately had to call airport officials and plead with them to send police, telling them he "can't seem to get any help from our own company" after his New Jersey-bound plane was diverted to Connecticut -- to Hartford's Bradley Airport.

More than 100 passengers on the JetBlue flight were left onboard the plane without food, water or functioning bathrooms.

In what JetBlue described as an "unusual combination of weather and infrastructure issues," the plane that took off from Fort Lauderdale couldn't land at Newark Liberty International Airport because of weather conditions.

A passenger told ABC News that after the plane circled Newark Airport, the pilot put a scare into passengers by telling them the plane had only 30 minutes of fuel left, and that Bradley Airport, where the plane had been diverted to, was about an hour away. The pilot soon got back on the PA system to calm down the passengers and assure them they did in fact have enough fuel to reach Bradley.

The plane touched down in Hartford around 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Once on the ground, the plane did not move until 9 p.m. "I got a problem here on the airplane. I'm gonna need to have the cops onboard," the pilot said, according to cockpit recordings posted on "There's a cop car sitting in front of me right here right now. I need some air stairs brought over here and cops brought onboard the airplane.

"Look, you know we can't seem to get any help from our own company. I apologize for this, but is there any way you can get a tug and a tow bar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something? I don't care. Take us anywhere," the pilot said.

If the government determines that any airline violated the tarmac delay rule, that carrier could be fined as much as $27,500 per passenger.

"It was a nightmare. Nobody wants to be stuck onboard a plane without ... water, eventually, and without access to a bathroom. The bathrooms were getting nasty," passenger Andrew Carter told ABC News.

The plan was to land in Hartford, fuel up and fly back to Newark, assuming the glide slope equipment -- a signal light that jets lock onto as they approach for landing -- would be up and running again, JetBlue officials said. The passengers were told this repeatedly while on the tarmac in Hartford.

However, that plan had to be altered because once Flight 504 landed at Hartford, the airport had been inundated with diverted flights.

"The airport infrastructure was just overwhelmed," said JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin.

According to JetBlue, there were at least 23 diversions there, including six JetBlue flights and an international flight from American Airlines.

"We worked with the airport to secure services, including remote deplaning and lav servicing. Our flights were six of the 23 reported diverted into Hartford, including international flights. The airport experienced intermittent power outages, which made refueling and jetbridge deplaning difficult. We apologize to the customers impacted by this confluence of events," a statement from JetBlue said.

JetBlue said it would refund the cost of the ticket to all passengers diverted to Bradley Airport.

Passenger John Trombadore said that in his opinion, The airport officials were either incompetent or didn't care.

"Jet Blue has demonstrated a callousness towards its customers, towards the passengers on that plane, that I find hard to comprehend. They should have been preparing to allow the passengers off at 2.5 hours on the tarmac, they didn't do that," Trombadore said Monday on "Good Morning America". "Their apology really serves no purpose under these circumstances. This should have been a teachable moment and I'm not sure that the message was received."

Meanwhile, the weekend snowstorm that dumped as much as 2 feet of snow on New England stranded 48 passengers on an Amtrak train bound for Boston for 14 hours. Forty-eight people had to be taken to their destinations by bus after spending the night stuck on a train in central Massachusetts, according to The Associated Press.

The train from Chicago to Boston became stuck when it was blocked by a rockslide in Palmer, Mass., around 10 p.m. Saturday, according to Amtrak spokesman Vernae Graham.

Graham told the AP that passengers had electricity and heat the whole time and got free food and drinks.Michael Mahoney, one of the stranded passengers, told ABC News that the bus that finally brought them to the Boston area Sunday morning was still besieged by the effects of rough weather.

"It took us an hour just to get out of Palmer, there were so many trees down," Mahoney said.

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