Airline Blames Customs for Stranded Flyers
Virgin says feds threatened arrests if passengers got off
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Disillusioned
Posted Jun 24, 2010 7:21 PM CDT
A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane sits on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.   (AP photo/Journal Inquirer, Jim Michaud)
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(Newser) – Well somebody's lying: Virgin Atlantic says it had to keep passengers on a hot airplane for 4 hours on the tarmac because a Customs official demanded it, reports AP. The pilot says he called upon landing at the Connecticut airport and was told passengers would be arrested if they disembarked because there weren't enough immigration officials on duty. A Customs spokesman denies it and says no request was made to let the passengers out.

Regardless of who said what, the passengers baked on the plane, without food, and a handful fainted. The federal rule requiring passengers to be freed after 3 hours didn't apply because it was an international flight, notes AP. It was supposed to land in Newark but got diverted by storms, possibly explaining the short-staffing. A passengers' rights advocate wants federal officials to go through the cockpit recordings to get to the bottom of it.