Air Passengers: 'Dumped' In Des Moines

D E S  M O I N E S, Iowa, Feb. 18, 2001 -- Passengers aboard a flight to Las Vegaswere stranded at Des Moines International Airport for more than sixhours without food or beds early today after their plane made anemergency landing.

And passengers complained that while they were told to stay putin the terminal, the plane's crew went to a hotel.

"They just dumped us off," said Patricia Edmonson of Chicago.

Diverted to Closed Airport

American Trans Air Flight 155, en route from Chicago to LasVegas, was diverted to Des Moines shortly after taking off fromO'Hare International Airport Saturday because a passenger sufferedbreathing difficulties.

Passengers estimated there were more than 150 people on board.

The woman was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was in goodcondition, police said.

But when the crew prepared to resume the flight, they foundmechanical problems with the plane.

Passengers said they sat on the runway for two hours before theywere led into the airport, which was closed for the night. Theycomplained there was no place to eat or sleep, and even the vendingmachines were locked.

Cops Called to Unlock Passengers

Passenger Craig Cesal of Chicago said he called police andfinally arranged for an officer to let him out of the airport.

While most of the other passengers stayed at the terminal, Cesalcalled a taxi, went to a restaurant on a nearby Interstate andchecked into a motel.

ATA customer service representatives in Indianapolis saidcompany officials were unavailable to comment today.

The airport tried to make the best of a bad situation for thepassengers, airport spokesman Michael Audino said today.

"Accommodating passengers is an airline responsibility, not anairport responsibility," he said. "From what I understand,personnel who were there did do what they could to accommodate someof those passenger demands."

Donuts and juice arrived about 5 a.m. An airport coffee bar,with coffee, tea and muffins, opened about an hour later.

Airport spokeswoman Rachel Stanhope said the plane left DesMoines around 7:45 a.m. and arrived in Las Vegas about 3 hourslater.

Passenger Don Walker of Las Vegas said ATA gave them a freeround-trip ticket and a $10 food voucher.

"I think the captain made the right choice in landing [in DesMoines]. It was just unfortunate the way that things happened,"Walker said after he arrived home.

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