Archive for Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pilot pleaded to let stranded passengers off plane on tarmac

Blame for incident falling on airline

August 22, 2009


— The pilot of an airliner stranded overnight on an airport tarmac in Minnesota pleaded unsuccessfully for her 47 passengers to be allowed to get off and go inside a terminal. “We just need to work out some way to get them off ... We can’t keep them here any longer,” she said.

The Transportation Department on Friday released recordings of the repeated appeals by the pilot and her airline’s dispatchers earlier this month while passengers were kept waiting for about six hours in the cramped plane amid crying babies and a smelly toilet before they were allowed to deplane.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said a preliminary investigation by his department found that ExpressJet, the regional carrier which operated Continental Express Flight 2816 for Continental Airlines, wasn’t at fault in the tarmac stranding.

Instead, blame for the incident, which has revived calls for greater consumer protections for airline passengers, belongs with Mesaba Airlines, whose representative incorrectly told ExpressJet that the passengers couldn’t be allowed inside the terminal because Transportation Security Administration personnel had left for the day, LaHood said.

Actually, security regulations allow for deplaning passengers to be kept in a separate “sterile” area until they are ready to board, he said.

“We have determined that the Express Jet crew was not at fault. In fact, the flight crew repeatedly tried to get permission to deplane the passengers at the airport or obtain a bus for them,” LaHood said Friday in a statement.

“There was a complete lack of common sense here,” the secretary said. “It’s no wonder the flying public is so angry and frustrated.”

Mesaba was the only airline with staff still at the Rochester, Minn., airport that Friday night.

The plane left Houston at 9:23 p.m. local time on Aug. 7, but was diverted by thunderstorms to Rochester. Passengers were kept waiting on the tarmac only 50 yards from a terminal. In the morning, they were allowed to deplane. They spent about 2 1/2 hours inside the terminal before reboarding the same plane. They arrived in Minneapolis, their destination, at 9:15 a.m. CDT.

Mesaba is a unit of Delta Air Lines of Atlanta.

“Delta is working with Mesaba to conduct an internal investigation, continue our full cooperation with the DOT and share all the facts with Continental,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. Mesaba CEO John Spanjers said he disagreed with the department’s conclusions, which do not match his airline’s understanding of the event.

The recordings show the captain explaining the situation to an ExpressJet dispatcher, and dispatchers trying to persuade Mesaba officials to allow passengers inside.

Passengers from an earlier flight diverted to Rochester had been allowed to deplane and were taken by bus to Minneapolis, about 85 miles away.

However, Mesaba officials said there were no more buses available.

“I can’t get her a bus, I can’t do anything,” said a Mesaba representative.

“You can’t do anything for her? OK,” asked the ExpressJet dispatcher.


“Because she was saying nobody was letting her off the airplane, letting the people off the airplane and all that,” the dispatcher continued.

“We can’t — I mean we were just able to let these guys off. We can’t get them a bus. If I can’t secure them a bus, I can’t have them in a closed airport,” the Mesaba representative replied.

In another conversation that began at 4:44 a.m. after the terminal had reopened, a Mesaba manager told an ExpressJet dispatcher that the passengers couldn’t deplane because there was no jetbridge available and it was raining.


GardenMomma 8 years, 9 months ago

When did the airlines start thinking of passengers as freight instead of people?

How hard would it have been to get someone to come and let the passengers off the plane and into the airport? Really?

Linda and Bill Houghton 8 years, 9 months ago

Delta is the airline that nickeled and dimed the leaving time of my 11:10 p.m. flight until about 3:40 a.m. Then they boarded us and as soon as we got belted in they announced that they didn't have enough crew members to fly. They sent us back in to have our reservations changed to a 9:xx a.m. flight. They undoubtely knew at the originaly flight time that they couldn't fly, but didn't want to put us up in a hotel over night. The morning flight finally left late and only then because there were a couple of flight attendants in civilian clothes that volunteered to work the flight so they could get home.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 9 months ago

"When did the airlines start thinking of passengers as freight instead of people?"

I suspect the trend started that direction along about the time "personell" departments were replaced by "human resources" departments.

Words are important in the way people think, and "personell" are unquestionably People/b>, while "human resources" are Resources just like coal or oil, copper or steel.

American businesses has been steadily dehumanizing people, both as customers and employees for several decades, in paralell with the rise of the status of financial professionals in the corporate structure. Yes, financial professionals are great at extracting value, but they have no concept at all of creating value.

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