Passengers Spend 14 Hours Stuck on Cold, Grounded Plane

Some of them ended up calling off their trips to Hong Kong
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2019 3:05 AM CST
Passengers Stuck on Plane in Cold for 14 Hours
A Dreamliner 787-10 pulls up to a gate in Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The Newark to Hong Kong route is one of the world's longest flights. And for United Airlines passengers on Saturday, it was much longer than usual—and they ended back in Newark at the end of it. The passengers were stuck on the ground in frigid weather at a Canadian military base for more than 14 hours after the flight had to divert to Goose Bay, Newfoundland, due to a medical emergency, CNN reports. "After medical professionals helped the passenger off, we were told we were just refueling and then we’d head back to Newark," passenger Steven Lau tells NBC. "But there was an issue with getting one of the emergency exit doors securely closed." At midnight—nine hours after the aircraft had taken off from Newark and three hours after landing at Goose Bay—passengers were told that the door had frozen shut and another plane would be sent to bring them back to Newark.

As temperatures dropped to -20 outside, passengers were not allowed to leave the plane because customs officers were not on duty overnight. Wrestler Sonjay Dutt tells the CBC that the crew handed out blankets as the cold became "uncomfortable" inside the plane. As food ran low, passengers called for help on Twitter, saying people "were not doing well." Canadian officials brought coffee and food from Tim Horton's Sunday morning and passengers were allowed to stretch their legs in the terminal building. United sent a plane—with food—to bring the passengers back to Newark, where they arrived Sunday evening. The airline says it is doing all it can to assist the passengers, though Lau says some of them have decided to just scrap their trips to Hong Kong. (After six hours stuck on the tarmac, these Air Transat passengers ended up calling 911 to plead for water.)

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