A Delta Airlines flight that was supposed to last four hours wound up lasting closer to 30 hours, thanks to a series of weather and other delays. And the flight was plagued by such bad turbulence that some passengers feared they might not survive the flight at all.
As The Dallas Morning News reports, Delta Flight 944 was supposed to fly from Punta Cana, a popular resort destination in the Dominican Republic, to New York’s JFK airport. Under ordinary conditions, that flight should take about four hours. But thanks to a series of setbacks that would be almost comical under any other conditions, the passengers wouldn’t reach their destination for 30 hours.
The Delta flight left Punta Cana as scheduled Monday morning, and was utterly uneventful — that is, until it approached JFK. Through the windows, passengers could see thick clouds below them, and snow on the ground. The plane circled the airport. And circled. And circled some more.
Passenger Lauren Karasek, 30, said that the pilot then got on the intercom and gave the passengers some bad news.
“He said that we were low on fuel and had to land in 10 minutes or we needed to be diverted.”
In fact, the Delta flight was diverted — to Manchester, New Hampshire, about 200 miles away.
Once in Manchester, the missteps began piling up. First, because the Manchester airport isn’t equipped for international flights, there were no customs agents to receive the passengers (instead, there was only a security guard, who had to radio Delta that passengers were waiting). Passengers had to wait while customs officials were brought in from the nearest international airport — in Portland, Maine, 95 miles away.
The plane also had to be de-iced. Then, thanks to the repeated delays, the flight crew was “timed out” — which is to say, they had been on the clock so long that, as mandated by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules, they had to rest. That meant the passengers would be spending the night in Manchester.
— Aye Soe (@ayesoe) February 16, 2016
If things weren’t already going badly enough for the Delta flight, it turns out that airport officials on the ground in Manchester couldn’t seem to find the right equipment to de-plane the passengers. The first set of stairs they rolled up to the plane didn’t fit the aircraft properly. They rolled up another one and it worked, but could only handle about 20 people at a time. There were over 160 on-board.
At about 11:00 a.m. the following morning, the Delta flight was cleared for takeoff to JFK, and passengers thought their ordeal might finally be coming to an end. Except it wasn’t. Karasek says that as they approached JFK in 60 mph winds, passengers were being “tossed around” the cabin. Some requested oxygen. Others threw up. Some feared the plane was going to snap in half.
By that time, many of the passengers had had enough. When the plane finally landed at JFK at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday night, only about half of the plane’s original 160 passengers were still on board. The rest had made other arrangements. Karasek and her companions bought train tickets.
To make matters worse, Karasek says that Delta has been less than sympathetic to her, and her fellow passengers’ flights. Although they were all awarded 12,500 frequent flier miles, Karasek says that she’s incurred about $650 in hotel and train costs. And she says Delta customer service has refused to reimburse her.
A Delta spokesperson confirmed that all of the inconvenienced passengers on the 30 hours flight have been offered frequent flier miles as compensation. He said the airline will “evaluate” Karasek’s and the other passengers’ complaints and requests for reimbursement.
[Image via Shutterstock/Tupungato]