The latest horror story about passengers being confined on a grounded aircraft comes from my own back yard, at Bradley International Airport, as the Associated Press reports.
This incident points up the fact that Bradley’s “international” status is a little shaky. Bradley has very limited international flights, and there were no immigration or customs officials on hand to process the passengers when a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Newark was diverted to Bradley on Tuesday night.
So 300 passengers and 14 crew waited on an Airbus A340 for more than four and a half hours — by their accounts without food, water or air conditioning — for the airport to find officials who could process their arrival. Passengers reported that several people fainted and were removed by ambulance.
New Department of Transportation rules limit such tarmac strandings to three hours for domestic flights. President Obama has proposed extending that limit to international flights.
And why not? Even in a case like Bradley’s, where customs and immigration agents have to be called in, airports can surely serve people better in these situations.
These passengers should have been allowed to leave the plane, even if they had to be held in a secure area of the airport until the customs and immigration agents arrived. If that required calling in a few state troopers to watch them, I’m sure that could have been done. If it requires a change in rules or procedures, let’s change them.
Because I’m embarrassed, as a citizen of this country and a resident of Connecticut, that our visitors and returning citizens were treated so badly. Passenger rights should extend to all passengers.