‘Procedures’ Kept Passengers Aboard Sweltering Jet

The Department of Transportation has concluded that “all of the established and appropriate procedures were implemented” by airline and airport staff when 300 passengers were left to swelter in the dark for four hours aboard a Virgin Atlantic jet diverted to Bradley International Airport last month, as The Hartford Courant reports.

The obvious implication is that “all of the established and appropriate procedures” suck, and need to be changed. It’s simply not OK to treat human beings like that, no matter what the rulebook says.

The Courant’s story details a long struggle to refuel the plane and get it back in the air, followed by a bureaucratic struggle to get the customs and immigration operation at Bradley up and running to receive the passengers. No doubt everybody was trying hard.

But when things start going wrong, the foremost concern should be for the passengers. And it clearly was not.

Here’s the worst part, from The Courant:

Once the flight crew decided to cancel the remainder of the flight, at 11:10 p.m., it was a policy of Customs Border Protection at Bradley that would keep the passengers from deplaning. According to the DOT, the policy does not allow passengers to deplane to a secured area unless customs is staffed with agents to process them. That night it would be another 40 minutes — 11:50 p.m. — before customs was fully staffed.

That policy needs to change. If state troopers could be called to deal with unruly passengers — and they were — they could be called to watch the passengers in a secure area. Customs and Border Protection needs to change its policy to allow that, and airports need to change their policies to encourage it.

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