United accused of trapping passengers for 7 hours in "unbearable heat" with no water, food or air conditioning

Originally published at: United accused of trapping passengers for 7 hours in "unbearable heat" with no water, food or air conditioning | Boing Boing


I don’t understand how this keeps happening. Even a psychopath corporation or a cold impersonal bureaucracy should be able to figure out a way to get the passengers off the plane after three hours.


Coworkers had a similar situation a week ago. Flight from Dulles to Munich, they ended up waiting on the ground for 5 hours before taking off. Not as bad, but still they were miserable.


Unless they have amazing success at buying off all these poor souls with free ‘miles’, we should be seeing a phalanx of lawyers marching toward their corporate offices, shouldn’t we? (half expecting someone to point out some Reagan era FAA approved rule that eliminates any lawsuits against airlines which don’t involved a release of snakes on the plane)


If I’d been on that plane, after the end of the first 90 minutes with no water, A/C, or ability to get off the plane I probably would have called 911. Passengers giving bad reviews to the airline won’t make the corporate office take notice. The police (and probably the FBI) showing up to investigate a report that the passengers are effectively being held hostage on the flight would. Especially after 9/11 law enforcement is going to take potential hostage situations on an airplane very, very seriously.

If the airline throw some low-level employee to the wolves to take all the blame for the incident, that’s when you go to lawyers and/or the media.


I was close to losing my mind when we were stuck for just over 2 hours for a flight out of SAN earlier this year.
Another reason I always make sure to bring my water bottle with me when I fly. After I clear TSA, I find a coke machine, fill my bottle with ice, then fill it with water…


It’s because they don’t want to get the passengers off the plane. Doing that puts the flight into a different category.

I just woke up so I’m hazy on the details, but if the plane doesn’t return to the gate, then the flight is just delayed or something. If the passengers actually deplane, then it gets marked up differently in a way that the airline can be fined or otherwise held legally liable for something or other. Also, they have to do all that pre-flight maintenance stuff again.

So it’s about the money.

I’m surprised nobody opened the emergency door to force the issue.


“… because fuck you, that’s why”


why did i have to get all the way to the bottom of the story before i saw that at least one organization is taking the situation seriously?


Because you missed the second line in the article that says the same thing.


I really feel for the Cabin Crew who would be feeling the brunt of the passengers’ rage, in addition to being hot and dehydrated themselves. And what does this do to the Pilots’ work schedule; can they even take off after 7 hours in the cockpit?


Is anyone familiar enough with aircraft to know what the report of the cabin heating up, some mechanical futzing temporarily fixing things, then things heating up again might mean on a technical level; and more generally what the power situation is during prolonged periods on the ground?

Are APUs intended to be capable of running for more or less as long as you want to fuel them; or are they more limited because there’s only supposed to be a relatively short period between being on AGPU power and having the main engines online? How much time would you be able to power climate control and electrical systems while sitting on the ground before you’ve used enough fuel that you no longer have enough to complete the trip with the required safety margin?

Obviously none of the above accounts for failing to break out the beverage cart or just suck it up and bring people back to the gate; but I’m curious about how easy or difficult maintaining cabin conditions on the ground would be expected to be. Is this something where they should have deplaned much earlier but probably couldn’t have kept the cabin cool for whatever mechanical reason prevented them from taking off? A much more damning “towing over a mobile AGPU or spinning up one of the engines sounds like it would cost money…” situation?

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Yes, it’s all about the money, but sometimes a series of cascading events can turn what would be an acceptably short delay into a huge delay. Recently I was on a flight that was being held while maintenance fixed something. After a while they determined that they needed a new part, which would not be available soon enough, so they had us disembark and wait for a new plane. That new plane was bigger and required an extra crew member, so we then had to wait while a crew member could be brought in. Then we had to wait for clearance to take off. Just when we thought we were home free, the crew timed out and the entire flight was canceled. All in, we had been delayed about nine hours.


I expect there was a combination of issues that stacked up to cause this problem.

Every aircraft type is different but generally so long as the engines are turning there is no need for the APU. Some older aircraft with low-bypass engines still run the APU in flight. There is typically one engine that is dedicated to provide the electrical power for the aircraft. In flight cooling air comes from a heat exchange with the bleed air from the engine bypass.

If the mechanical problem required shutting down the engine that would normally provide electrical power then the APU would be necessary. The APU uses a trivial amount of fuel. Its the heat exchange that is the problem. The air conditioner powered by the APU uses the aircraft fuel as the coolant for the air conditioner system since bleed air is not available. Fuel coming out of the ground is pretty chilly but this heat exchange becomes much less efficient when the fuel in the wings starts to warm up as it will during a lengthy ground stop. After running the APU to power the Air Conditioner it would eventually start pushing warm air.


What is this “investigating reports” bullshit? It’s there. It’s factual. It’s all there in the paperwork in black and white. What is there to “investigate”?? This sort of shit should be redflagged EVERY FUCKING TIME.
I am shocked that no one went postal after 7 hours on the tarmac. Honestly, I dont’ know what the passenger recourse is. Call United customer support? Useless. Call 911? Rather not get shot, tnx. Open the emergency door? Here’s to never being able to fly again…


Gun control. They’d passed security, so nobody had their sidearm.


Since they were flying to the EU, they are likely at least entitled to a big chunk of €s for that amount of delay (there are a few loopholes, but I’ve gotten more cash from claims than what I paid for the tickets). There are sites that do the legwork for you (for a percentage), which is worth it to me. I fill out the form on airhelp whenever I get a long enough delay on a flight, but it’s probably not hard to file the claim on your own.


And thanks God for that.


Maybe not the FBI, but calling 911 in the case of someone passed out, i.e. medical emergency, would be a legit move.

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Agreed. From the article:

Ieronimo said she watched elderly people sweat, a baby was crying, and a young girl almost passed out.

“She must have had a panic attack. And she was vomiting,” said Ieronimo.

If someone’s throwing up from the heat, I’d be worried they were suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. IMO that qualifies as a 911-worthy situation.