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Stuck On An Airplane, On The Ground, For Hours

Updated on November 14, 2022
Air travel
Air travel | Source

Like Prisoners On The Tarmac

That's how it felt anyway, and we were stuck for only a few hours. Imagine being detained on an airplane for five or ten hours with no food and without a working bathroom or air conditioning. It's happened many times before, and it happened again in August, 2009.

In fact, my husband and I had a very similar experience en route to the same airport just the week before. I'll tell you about it here, along with what happened to passengers stranded -- held captive, more like -- on the tarmac in Minneapolis overnight.

It may be years later now, but people are still getting stuck on planes just sitting on the ground.

Have you been stuck on a plane on the tarmac? - A quick visitor poll

Has this happened to you?

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Our Experience on Northwest Airlines

Waiting on the tarmac

Just a week before this incident, when my husband and I were traveling to Minnesota on a non-stop Northwest Airlines flight (now part of Delta), our plane was diverted to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, due to stormy weather in the Minneapolis area. At first, we circled the airport, waiting for the worst of the storm to pass, but less than ten minutes later we were told we were low on fuel and needed to divert.

We then sat on the tarmac in Sioux Falls for a few hours, while every half hour or so we were told we'd be back in the air "soon." Part of our delay was apparently about paperwork and some light bulbs and a bathroom sink that weren't working in the cabin. Then the flight crew was about to leave because their shifts were up, which would mean we'd be stuck there overnight.

A hush-hush conversation eventually took place between the Captain and the crew at the back of the cabin, while passengers all looked on, hoping. If the stewardesses decided to leave, we wouldn't be able to legally take off without them, even for the short flight back to Minneapolis. Thankfully, the pilot talked them into staying on so we could get to our destination. There was a cabin-wide sigh of relief.

Then we waited for more paperwork to be completed before we actually did take off again. When we finally landed in Minneapolis, we then sat on the tarmac again, just a few feet from the ramp this time, because they couldn't find someone to guide us in.

My husband and I just barely made it to the rental car counter before they closed at 1am, after running across one of the largest airports in the country. If we'd missed them, we would have had to stay in the airport until they reopened at 6am.

So I guess, compared to what the people on the flight a week later went through, we should consider ourselves lucky. Still, it was a very unpleasant, stressful, and frustrating situation.

If You Have Been Stuck On An Airplane On The Tarmac... - Tell us about it.

What airline was it? When did this happen? And how long were you stranded? What was the experience like and how did the crew handle it?

There's more information below, so keep scrolling down. There's also a general comment area.

Maggie42: Yes then they cancelled the flight we all had to pile off and our total trip mucked then we could see out the window that the loaded other passengers on the same plan and took off -not our best flight experience!!!!

jimmyworldstar: I think we all have at one point in our lives. I remember it must've been about an hour where there was some malfunction with the plane's wings as we were about to take off. It wasn't that long but it still felt like a hassle having to sit there and watch nothing moving out the window.

ShamanicShift: Actually, since I was riding standby as an airline employee, I didn't want to get off, because I would have had to start over -- the plane was only a little bit broken so they fixed it and we flew -- getting there is great -- blessed by a SquidAngel!

Bambi Watson: My last real job was at MSP International Airport and I saw this happen all the time...I think the worst one I heard about from travelers was a group her were stuck on a plane in Colorado for 12 hours before it finally took off for MSP...boy were they cranky... Since I worked as a customer service supervisor for a major car rental company...I saw a lot of the hassels that the airlines cause commuters...the biggest being cancelled & delayed flights for weather...we used to love bad weather, because then we could charge outrageous prices for one-way car rentals...I had a lot of ethical issues with that job, as you can well imagine...As the CS supervisor it was my job to deal with the irate & angry customers, find creative ways to make them happy, which was hard in a customer un-friendly industry ~ I wonder what they do now that my position was eliminated with down-sizing, I guess now the customer is just totally screwed.

julieannbrady: Oh, it was Delta of course. I can't tell you how many times I have experienced delays with Delta and plane trouble where we had to be taken back to the terminal and booked on another plane and that's when my luggage got delayed for another day! No fun. Hubby experiences this more as he flies quite a bit for his job.

Video Made By A Passenger WHILE Stranded On A Tarmac For Hours

A Passenger Bill Of Rights - Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights video update with clips from Dr. Phil, featuring Ralph Nader and Kate Hanni.

Article: Trapped On The Tarmac?

It Can Still Happen from

And in related news....

There's now a Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Deb Kingsbury


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