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17 March 2010

Virgin America flight 404 from LA to JFK New York - Travel News

Direct 5 hour Virgin America Flight 404 from LA to JFK New York turns into a 16 hour nightmare for passengers.

Virgin America flight 404 left LA at about 7 am, for a direct 5 hour flight to JFK New York but due to gale force winds the plane was diverted to Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, located about 90 miles north of NYC, instead of JFK were the plane was due to land, the plane at Stewart Airport was grounded on the tarmac for 4.5 hours, passengers were offered a chance to leave the plane only once and then the remaining passengers were told they had no choice and had to remain on the plane.

Then after a 4.5 arduous hours wait, on the tarmac, the passengers were finally shuttled by Virgin America’s competitor Jet blue, by Bus to travel the 90 Miles to JFK Airport New York, the total journey took a marathon 16 Hours, instead of the scheduled 5 hours.

During the wait on the tarmac the food and drink ran out and had to be rationed to a couple of crisps per passenger, and I don’t mean packets, I mean actual crisps and the flight crew were not dealing with the whole situation in the best way, due to lack of information and fatigue, which also escalated the tension on the grounded plane.

All passengers were sent a letter of apology from the CEO of Virgin America, given a full refund for the flight and an additional $100 credit for future travel.

A bill of rights for airline passenger’s would have ensured that passengers had access to clean toilet facilities, food and water and the right to leave the plane after 3 hours.

It has to be said that this was not a usual occurrence and different factors contributed to the ordeal the travellers endured for 16 Hours, but flight crews and staff should be give training in how to deal with difficult and unusual situations, as no matter what happens they still have a duty of care to all the passengers to ensure they are looked after and accommodate to their needs, the passengers should not have been left on the tarmac for such a long period of time, with insufficient food and drink, and a lack of information.

Airlines are getting away with a lot of this, I don’t think that just giving a refund, apology and a couple of bucks to use on the same airline, is enough to compensate what was a very traumatic experience. Being restricted to a confined space on an aircraft that is grounded on the tarmac, not only wastes travellers time but is very frustrating, as in these types of situations, there always seems to be a lack of information given.

For passengers and the flight crew this type of situation is very stressful to say the least. Tensions and passions run high, if at least travellers have enough food, drink and information they can try and make the best of a bad situation, because the plane will be their accommodation until the situation is resolved but tired, thirsty, hungry people that don’t know what is going on are all a recipe for disaster.

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