NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two-hundred fifty passengers were back on the ground in New Jersey on Sunday night, after an in-flight nightmare left them stuck on the tarmac at a small airport in Canada for more than 15 hours, with no way out.
CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez spoke to some of those passengers.
Passengers on a Saturday afternoon flight headed to Hong Kong instead arrived back in Newark more than 24 hours later.
Their original United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at a remote air force base in Canada after a passenger fell ill. They were grounded on board their plane for more than 15 hours.
“It has been cold and a bit hungry, but otherwise it was all right. I think everybody understood that the circumstances that nobody could really control,” passenger Chris Liew said.
“Their choice of airport was very poor, since the airport was not equipped to handle 240 people,” passenger Eitan Magid added.
People on board say emergency responders at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland helped the sick passenger off the plane to receive medical attention, but the flight couldn’t continue on to Hong Kong. One of the cabin doors was frozen after the temperature dipped to minus-25 with minus-65 degree wind chills.
The door couldn’t be fixed.
And because the plane landed during the overnight hours there were no customs personnel working. Passengers were forced to spend the night on the plane, with heat but only light snacks to eat.
Magid, who lives in Alpine, New Jersey, said passengers were told a rescue plane was coming to get them, but no one could tell them when.
“The staff, the crew was amazing. I feel bad for them, because they had no information,” Magid said.
“Clearly the pilots didn’t really know what was going on. They weren’t given a clear message, either, so it certainly wasn’t their fault,” passenger Alex Forshay said.
Finally, on Sunday morning a second plane arrived at the base. Twenty-seven hours after taking off from Newark passengers were back where the started. Many, like Foshay, lost valuable time and money.
“I’m gonna have to go on to Seoul. I’ve missed my meetings in Hong Kong, so on to the next city,” Foshay said, adding when asked what he was most looking forward to, “A beer.”
United Airlines rebooked many of the passengers and reimbursed others for their inconvenience. Some passengers said that’s not enough and plan to take action against the airline.
According to a passenger CBS2 spoke with, all passengers on board were given a full refund, an additional $500 credit, a $100 gift card, and vouchers for food and a hotel stay.