CANADA (MOSTLY) AND UNITED AIRLINES (UAL) must share the Dumb and Dumber award for forcing a planeload of passengers and crew to sit on a freezing tarmac for FIFTEEN HOURS!
While there was heat on board the plane, food supplies ran low and, I imagine, the toilets were near over-flowing.
The UAL flight from Newark NJ to Hong Kong was diverted to Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Canada due to a medical emergency.1
According to news reports, the Canadians refused to allow the passengers to disembark because the airport lacked Customs.
I flew international connecting flights on KLM and a U.S. carrier I don’t now recall.
KLM flies via Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, so when my fellow passengers and I arrived at Schiphol, we were herded into a “sanitary” waiting area. “Sanitary” in this case means we had access to everything — food, restrooms, comfortable chairs, probably wi-fi and AC outlets — but were restricted to that one secure area.
We came in on a KLM flight and we went out on another KLM flight.
- It was my best international flight experience — no running from one terminal to another, usually across the airport from each other. I’ve done that in England, France, Italy, and Spain — and at JFK, too, where I had to take a train between terminals and then hike to my gate in the new terminal. At my age and condition, “hiking” is not something I do willingly or well. To be fair, at JFK I also had a carrier change.
Once flying from overseas to Miami via JFK, my fellow passengers and I were herded into a “sanitary” room while the aircraft was serviced — cleaned, restocked, and fueled. When the aircraft was ready, we were herded back to the plane and we were on our way. Unlike at Schiphol., we arrived and departed on the same plane.
In neither case was Customs involved.
The Canadians could have done something similar.
It might have been make-shift.
It might not have reached the comfort level of Schiphol or even JFK, but it would have been better than sitting in a tube for far too many hours. The Canadians could have made some easy money (from UAL if not the passengers) by providing food, cots, etc. If security was a concern, put some cops on overtime — at UAL’s expense if the provincial government is strapped — to corral the passengers if they couldn’t be otherwise segregated from the “general population.”
In my not-at-all-humble opinion, the major blame lies with the Canadians, our good northern neighbor.
UAL, however, must share the blame for not insisting the Canadians make arrangements to accommodate the passengers and for not immediately contacting the U.S. embassy in Canada to “spring” the passengers from the plane.
Canada could have flown in Customs agents within an hour or two — no reason to sit on the plane for 15 hours — plus whatever time they were on the plane since boarding in Newark. Had the passengers been prisoners or illegal aliens, some left-wing organization would have been screaming “cruel and unusual punishment.” (I would agree.)
I trust UAL, and all other international airlines, will develop policies and procedures to cover similar events in the future. This never should have happened; it never should happen again.
Obviously the airlines’ umbrella organization should have engaged an experienced Enterprise Risk Management practitioner to ferret out all risks to “business as usual” and to develop policies and procedures to cover the risks.
There was no excuse — not on Canada’s part and not on UAL’s part — for what occurred in Newfoundland.
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