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Lauderdale Flight Stranded For 7 Hours On Connecticut Tarmac

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FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – Federal investigators are looking into the circumstances with left passengers from several JetBlue planes and an American Airlines plane stranded on a tarmac at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport for more than seven hours.

In an emailed statement, JetBlue spokeswoman Victoria Lucia confirmed that six of their planes, carrying a total of about 700 passengers, were diverted to Hartford as a result of a “confluence of events” including snowy weather and infrastructure issues at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and Newark International Airport.

A total of 23 flights were diverted to Hartford, overwhelming the airport.  To make matters worse intermittent power outages at the airport made refueling and deplaning difficult.

Sun Sentinel reporter Andrew Carter was on the flight 504 to cover Sunday’s Dolphins’ game. His plane took off Saturday from Fort Lauderdale for Newark International Airport at around 9 a.m. After being diverted to Hartford, the plane sat on the tarmac between around 1:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., he said. He said the longer they sat, the worse things got.

“People were very angry, the bathrooms were getting clogged up, it was kind of nasty scene onboard, people’s dispositions turned sour,” said Carter who noted the plane ran out of snacks and bottled water.

In conversations with Bradley’s tower control, the pilot of the JetBlue’s flight 504 makes it clear something has to be done.

“Look, we can’t seem to get any help from our own company, I apologize for this, but is there any way you can get a tug and a tow bar out here to us and get us towed somewhere, to a gate or somewhere? I don’t care, take us anywhere,” said the pilot. “I have a paraplegic on board that needs to come off, I have a diabetic on here that’s got an issue. I have a list of things; I just gotta get some help.”

As the hours drag on, the pilot is heard making another plea for help.

“My priority right now is a tug and a tow bar. If you just give me a welding shop, I’ll be willing to make one myself,” said the pilot.

Once the passengers were allowed off the plane, however, the saga didn’t end.

Power outages from storms throughout Connecticut made booking hotel rooms difficult. As a result many passengers, like Carter, just slept in chairs or on cots at the airport.

In the morning, they then had to wait in line for hours just to figure out which flight they’d be on.

“That was most disappointing part,” Carter said. “It seemed like there was no plan when we got off the plane.”

Carter said he and several other passengers rented a van to drive to New Jersey rather than wait for the afternoon flight JetBlue had scheduled to Newark.

Kate Hanni, executive editor for FlyersRights.org, said she got calls and emails from passengers and worried family members regarding at least four flights that were stranded on the tarmac for up to 10 hours.

It’s not the first time JetBlue has had problems with tarmac delays. The New York-based airline also made headlines in 2007 when snow and ice storms stranded its planes for nearly 11 hours at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

If a plane is diverted because of a reason within the airline’s control, such as a mechanical failure, ticket contracts usually state that passengers will be reimbursed for hotels, food and transportation. That means airlines do everything in their power to keep passengers on board in hope that the plane will be able to take off again.

JetBlue said that passengers who were diverted to Bradley International would be reimbursed for their fares and hotel expenses.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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