MINNEAPOLIS – Forty-seven passengers were forced to sit in a cramped, smelly plane on an airport tarmac for six hours after their flight was diverted because of bad weather.
The Friday night Continental Express flight from Houston to Minneapolis scheduled to take just 2 1/2 hours, but the plane was diverted to Rochester airport because of stormy weather and landed around midnight.
Instead of allowing passengers to disembark and spend the night in the secure section of the terminal, however, the airline decided to keep the passengers on board the aircraft, airport officials said Monday.
“It’s not like you’re on a (Boeing) 747 and you can walk around,” Link Christin, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, told the Star Tribune newspaper. “This was a sardine can, with a single row of seats on one side of the plane and two rows of seats on the other. And they’ve got about 50 people inside, including babies, for the whole night. It was a nightmare.”
ExpressJet Airlines, the flight’s operator, couldn’t allow passengers to disembark because the airport’s security screeners had gone home for the night, company spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas said.
Airport officials said the airline could have allowed people into the secure section of the terminal.
Continental Airlines issued a statement Monday apologizing to the passengers, calling the incident “completely unacceptable” and saying it was offering refunds and vouchers.
Passengers were allowed into the terminal at 6 a.m., and later reboarded the airplane for their flight to Minneapolis.