HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — It was a passengers’ nightmare at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., this weekend.

Passengers on three JetBlue planes and one American Airline plane say they were stranded on the tarmac for seven hours or more after being diverted from New York-area airports.

The ordeal continued after they were let off and had to spend the night on cots and chairs in the terminal.

A passenger on one of the diverted JetBlue planes says the crew ran out of snacks and bottled water for the last few hours of the delay.

“The toilets were backed up. When you flushed, nothing would happen,” said Andrew Carter, a reporter for the Sun Sentinel of Florida, who was traveling to cover the Miami Dolphins game against the New York Giants. His plane took off from Fort Lauderdale for Newark Liberty International Airport at around 9 a.m. After being diverted to Hartford, the plane sat on the tarmac between around 1:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., he said.

A representative for Bradley International was not available to comment on the scope of the tarmac delays at the airport.

A JetBlue spokeswoman, Victoria Lucia, confirmed in an emailed statement that six of its planes, carrying a total of about 700 passengers, were diverted to Hartford as a result of a “confluence of events” including equipment failures at Newark and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport that prevented planes from landing in low visibility.

She declined to specify how long the planes sat on the tarmac at Bradley, but noted that 17 other flights with different carriers were also diverted to airport.

Once the planes landed at Bradley, Lucia said that intermittent power outages at the airport made refueling and deplaning difficult.

Kate Hanni, executive editor for FlyersRights.org, said she got calls and emails from passengers and worried family members regarding at least four flights that were stranded on the tarmac for up to 10 hours.

Brent Stanley and his wife were on one of those planes, an American Airlines flight that had originally been headed to JFK after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

After being diverted and landing in Hartford at 2:30 p.m., Stanley said passengers were given various reasons for being held on the tarmac, including the need to refuel and de-ice and the airport’s limited capacity for handling international flights. He and his wife were eager to get back home to their two young sons in Lake Zurich, Ill. But they realized they didn’t have it as bad as the parents who had infants on the plane.

“There was a lady in front of us with an 18-month-old daughter,” Stanley said. “Another woman came by to borrow diapers because we couldn’t get to our luggage.”

After spending the night at the airport, Stanley was lucky to find two seats Sunday on an afternoon flight home to Chicago. But the headache isn’t over yet; his luggage was headed to JFK because the Hartford airport crew wasn’t able to handle international luggage, he said.

An American Airlines spokesman, Ed Martelle, said the passengers weren’t allowed off the plane by customs at the airport. Martelle did not know the exact number of American planes that were diverted to Bradley or how long they sat on the tarmac.

Matt Shellenberger, who was on a JetBlue flight from Boston to JFK, said his plane was diverted to Bradley International and sat on the tarmac for seven hours.

The crew picked up trash regularly and handed out water and snacks and “everyone held their cool,” he said. But his frustrations grew with each status update; the reasons for the delay kept changing as the hours passed.

Early on, passengers were told that the plane was just being refueled and would fly out soon, Shellenberger said. Then they were told it was being de-iced. Then there was an emergency on another plane.

“We were told we were the third plane in line to get to the gate when we landed,” he said. “Then we stayed on the plane for seven hours.”

Carter of the Sun Sentinel, who was on another JetBlue flight, reported a similar sequence of updates.

The saga continued long after passengers were let off the plane.

The power outages from storms throughout Connecticut made booking hotel rooms difficult. As a result, many passengers just slept at the airport, Carter and Shellenberger said in separate interviews.

When they awoke, hundreds of passengers had to wait in line for hours just to figure out which flight they’d be on.

“That was most disappointing part,” Carter said. “It seemed like there was no plan when we got off the plane.”

In the morning, Carter said he and several other passengers rented a van to drive to New Jersey rather than wait for the afternoon flight JetBlue had scheduled to Newark.

It’s not the first time JetBlue has had problems with tarmac delays. The New York-based airline also made headlines in 2007 when snow and ice storms stranded its planes for nearly 11 hours at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Such high-profile delays helped prompt a regulation last year that fines airlines for holding domestic flights on the tarmac for more than three hours. This year, the rule was extended to apply to international flights that are held on the tarmac for more than four hours.

The Department of Transportation often doesn’t enforce the fines to their full extent unless delays are extreme, however. Passengers also do not get a cut of the fines.

Low-cost carriers are more prone to tarmac delays because letting passengers off planes can cost an airline a lot of money, said Hanni of FlyersRights.org.

If a plane is diverted because of a reason within the airline’s control, such as a mechanical failure, ticket contracts usually state that passengers will be reimbursed for hotels, food and transportation. That means airlines do everything in their power to keep passengers on board in hope that the plane will be able to take off again.

JetBlue said that passengers who were diverted to Bradley International would be reimbursed for their fares and hotel expenses.

A representative for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which oversees Newark and JFK airports, could not immediately say how many total flights were diverted to other airports because of equipment failures.

Does the prospect of being stuck on a plane keep you from flying? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (12)
  1. Liz Smith says:

    I think I would have used the emergency exit and get the hell out of there. Go in with the other passengers to get it done and slide down the ramp, It would be good plan if the airlines kept you on the plane for ever and a year. This is just unconceivable to keep people on the plane that long as hostages of JET BLUE. I hope those passengers make lawsuits to JET BLUE and never fly on that airline again – EVER! I think this is one airline that should not be in business. Really how hard is it to pull a ramp up to the plane to get off or at the gate after an hour or two. Three, Four, Five, Six hours or more in the same plane not moving is just plain neglectful and down right WRONG!

  2. Meme Meyagi says:

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  3. tim says:

    i thought this was illegal now?????????????????

  4. Phil Hooley says:

    Whatever happened to the guide book ” What Procedures to Follow in an Emergency and Who to Contact for Immediate Responsible Action” that every reliable organization has on hand? Jet Blue, research needed! “Hot lines and job responsibility need updating ! Law suits and poor reputation are wake up calls!

  5. p8nt says:

    Air traffic control and the airport are more to blame for this than Jet Blue. The pilot and the crew can only do so much. Air traffic control, should have advised the pilot if the airport was too busy for them, and diverted them to a different airport.

  6. jtorres says:

    I was under the obviously mistaken impression that there were procedures in place to prevent this from happening again. Delays and emergencies happen but please. Why can’t they roll out steps, open the doors and let passengers off to get air, food, water, and bathrooms? It won’t cost them money if they fix the problem and let the passengers back on to be on their way. If they have to pay for a hotel overnight, them’s the breaks. An airline as huge as American shouldn’t have a problem shaving a sliver off their profits and accomodating their customers. You remember them? The ones paying your salary?

  7. storms happen says:

    It wasn’t only Jet Blue. This was a bad storm that affected air travel on the east coast. My parents were on an international Continental flight to EWR that was diverted to Syracuse. They also sat on the plane for hours because of no gate, refueling issues, lack of customs to clear them, etc. The pilot was on approach to EWR when the equipment there failed and they were one of the last planes diverted. The only option was Syracuse and they were not prepared for that size plane. Fortunately they got the plane back in the air just before the crew timed out to fly. If they didn’t keep them on the plane until the crew timed out they would have been stuck in Syracuse for sure. Fortunately by waiting it out they got to EWR without the hassles of sleeping on cots and trying to find out the next flight out. So, it is a gamble to keep people on the planes but if there is a chance to get them to their final destination I think it is worth it. Oh, and the only thing they were served was granola bars.

  8. bullett says:

    As a former employee of an international airline, I can understand holding passengers onboard and international flight, but one makes arrangements to have this flight cleared while on the ground providing there is proper staffing to do same. As for the domestic flights, clear one gate at a time, bring in the diverted flight, off load, push said empty aircraft to a secure parking area, and continue this procedure until all diverted flights have been terminated. Last but not least, provide busses for passengers back to JFK/LGA/EWR. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, I’ve been there, done that! It’a also known as taking the bull by the horns and making decisions that one is being paid to do; not waiting for someone in the “Ivory Tower” to make that call for you. I hope all are fined to the Max!

  9. pete says:

    JetBlue is well known for stunts like these. They have had a Management Problem since they opened up years ago. Too many relatives and too many friends are sitting in responsible positions, and they just cannot be replaced with professionals, just because of it. It is a good airline, and they are good people as long as everything goes perfect. In case there is trouble, I would rather have a dog on my side.

  10. A "going postal" worker says:

    How is it that certain people in aviation continue to be so stupid. Weather and power outages are understandable – but please, they’ll tell us that they couldn’t get a movable staircarse and a waiting bus?

    Sometimes I can’t tell who is dumber – people who work in aviation, or people who actually buy airline shares? (with few exceptions, most turn out to be losers).

  11. Boater says:

    Someone needs to pull their heads out of their butts and use some common sense so this does not happen any more.

  12. billyboy says:

    i’m sure Jet Blue is sorry, really sorry, maybe really really sorry. That’s good.

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