Passengers Trapped on a Grounded Flight for 14 Hours in Negative Temperatures

The passengers were not allowed to leave the plane

January 22, 2019
United Airlines

It was like a bad scene from a movie.

Passengers were stuck on a frozen airport tarmac for 14 hours on a flight originally destined to Hong Kong from Newark, New Jersey. United Airlines flight 179 left Newark Liberty International Airport just after 3 p.m. EST Saturday. Shortly after departure the aircraft was re-routed to a Canadian airport due to a medical emergency, according to CNN.

Around 9:30 p.m. The flight finally landed in Newfoundland at Goose Bay Airport, the sick passenger was then transported to a local hospital.

As the plane was preparing for its second departure, a problem was encountered when the door of the aircraft would not shut. "The door had likely frozen in the frigid temperatures" said Natalie Noonan, a United Airlines spokeswoman.

Why were the passengers not allowed to leave the plane? Because the airport had no customs officers on duty overnight. As a result, the 250 passengers became trapped on the aircraft in frigid temperatures, getting as low as -26 degrees

After nearly 10 hours of being stranded, Goose Bay officials finally provided the cold, hungry passengers with coffee and doughnuts from Tim Horton's.

A rescue plane was sent from Newark filled with food and beverage for the passengers. At 3:43 p.m. AST, more than 14 hours after the original re-routed flight had landed, the passengers were finally on their way back to New Jersey.

They returned to Newark around 6 p.m. Sunday evening.

United has offered refunds and vouchers to the passengers and has said they were doing "everything they could" to keep the passengers comfortable.