Don’t blame United Airlines for a horrific delay that kept passengers on a cold plane for 14-hours and ultimately delayed passengers by nearly a day.
United 179, from Newark to Hong Kong, departed Newark Saturday afternoon at 3:00PM. Five hours into the flight, a medical emergency occurred (a passenger experienced multiple seizures) and the flight diverted to Goose Bay Airport (YYR), a Canadian Forces Base, in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The passenger was offloaded and transported to a local hospital with the plan to immediately continue the journey to Hong Kong. But the brutal -20ºF temperatures froze door 3R shut, making it impossible to arm it (essentially enabling the emergency evacuation slide to inflate if the door is opened). Thus, takeoff was delayed.
Four @united tech ops workers trying to fix the right wing emergency exit door of #UA179. A planeful of people is hoping they have better luck than the last set of mechanics and pilots who tried hours ago @United_179 pic.twitter.com/PlC41Rh7qp
— Steven Lau (@unoslau) January 20, 2019
The Delay Continues
When local mechanics could not fix the problem, the 250 remaining passengers braced themselves for a long delay. No immigration staff were on hand, forcing passengers to wait onboard the 777-200 while a rescue aircraft was dispatched from Newark.
After several hours, passengers were allowed off the aircraft in small batches to stretch and get some fresh air. During the delay, passengers were free to move about the cabin and meals were served onboard intended for flight to Hong Kong. When that ran out, airport officials delivered food from Tim Hortons onboard.
Mechanics arrived Sunday morning and failed to fix the problems. Passengers were placed on another 777-200 and flown back to Newark.
There was only one thing that made me sad. One passengers shared on Facebook:
We’ve been stranded here due to the GROSS mishandling of this situation by United Airlines. The entire way they have treated us from troubleshooting, communicating and actual treatment (or lack of) by most of the flight attendants has been not only unprofessional, but downright DISGUSTING. This is not an airline. It’s more like a prison.
By all other reports, it appears the flight attendants did the best they could, under difficult circumstances, to handle the situation. Thus, it is sad to read any commentary like this. But perhaps the passenger was just expressing frustration over what spiraled into a horrible situation.
I always feel the need to defend myself against being a United cheerleader. This was an unfortunate event. Perhaps it could have been handled better. But it would be unfair to blame this on United Airlines, as if it can control medical emergencies and sub-zero weather.
United is currently blocking award space on Singapore, TAP, and Thai. I’ll be pummeling United for that in an upcoming post. But I cannot attack United here. These freak accidents happens and thankfully the passengers are now on their way.
Is it sadomasochist to say, with a straight face, that I wish I was on that flight? In business class of course…
image: Steven Lau / Twitter