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United Airlines

United Passengers Frozen and Marooned for 17 Hours in Canada

United Passengers Frozen and Marooned for 17 Hours in Canada
Jackie Reddy

A Hong Kong-bound flight from Newark was forced to make an emergency diversion to Canadian Forces Goose Bay when a passenger fell ill. However, due to a technical issue with a door of the aircraft, the 777 was unable to continue its journey to Hong Kong, leaving passengers stranded on the tarmac for a total of 17 hours.

Passengers on a Hong Kong-bound United Airlines flight from Newark found themselves stranded at a Canadian airfield this weekend, The Independent reports. The incident involved United Airlines Flight 179, which departed from New Jersey on Saturday afternoon but was diverted approximately three-a-half hours into the journey after a passenger fell ill.

The plane made an emergency landing at Canadian Forces Goose Bay (YYR), which is operated by the nation’s air force.

The outlet reports that the ill passenger was taken off of the aircraft and that the Boeing 777 was refueled. However, a mechanical problem with the one of the plane’s doors meant that the craft was unable to continue its journey.

Offering his eyewitness account to the outlet, passenger Chris Liew explained that, though a mechanic had been summoned to fix the problem, “it couldn’t be fixed and the pilots began working with their operations center for a new plan, essentially involving a replacement aircraft that either took us back to Newark or on to Hong Kong or some intermediate airport closer to Hong Kong.”

“All that time, one aircraft door was open and it was -4F (-20C) outside. The aircraft was adequately warm for those of us sitting away from the open door. Some unfortunate flight attendant was posted at the door for safety and security, I suppose,” he added.

As the delay went on, passengers became understandably frustrated with the situation, which resulted in passengers being stranded for 16 hours. It is reported that no refreshments were served until around hour 12 of the diversion.

Seeking an outlet, one traveler even created a Twitter account for the diverted flight.

Passengers were unable to officially enter Canada because no border staff were on duty.

In a tweet, passenger Rose Kazan criticized the carrier, saying, “This is so incredibly bad. UA, this is the all time worst customer experience I have ever had. Shame on you.”

A replacement craft was eventually dispatched to rescue the stranded passengers, who returned to Newark 26 hours after they had first departed the city.

United has apologized for the incident.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (9)

9 Comments

  1. Tizzette

    January 21, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    No border agent available for 16 hours is not passengers fault. Show some common sense, take the passengers off the plane anyway.

  2. jjmoore

    January 22, 2019 at 4:10 am

    This is a HUGE gaffe on the part of United Airlines operations. The decision should have been made right away, given the extreme circumstances) to strand 300 people in EWR to free up an aircraft to pick up as quickly as possible the 300 stranded passengers in northern Canada on an aircraft with an open door in -25C conditions. I hope the compensation is VERY healthy for those passengers and that the airline is held to account for this by whatever government agencies (both domestic and int’l) govern this incident.

  3. cairns

    January 22, 2019 at 11:38 am

    But UAL already offered all the passengers a full refund and a $500 voucher or 25,000 FF miles. And we all know how valuable UAL miles and vouchers are.

  4. yyccdg

    January 22, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    No border agent should be expected, its a Canadian Forces base, not a commercial airport. Its much easier to keep track of the passengers by leaving them on the plane then it would be to disembark and then keep them confined to another facility on base. Can’t have the chance someone runs free into the cold! Sending a new aircraft quickly would have been the proper response.

  5. glob99

    January 22, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Canada is to blame for keeping the pax on the plane. Just hold the pax in the base gym or auditorium. No need to “officially” enter Canada.

  6. Ditka

    January 22, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    What a completely misleading title. The plane was heated the entire time. Nobody was marooned or frozen. Thank GOD they diverted and saved this passenger’s life.
    Oh yeah-that was lent mentioned in the headline either-it was a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

  7. bagwell

    January 23, 2019 at 6:53 am

    CLICK BAIT, passengers were not stranded outside in -4°F temps. Yes United screwed up again by not handling the situation better but nobody froze to death. I don’t think the story needs to be embellished to make it worse than it actually WAS!

  8. afCAMEO

    afCAMEO

    January 23, 2019 at 6:55 am

    Once more an overly sensationalized headline fro this author. Blaming United for this entire thing is . ridiculous. Could United have been more proactive in getting another plane up there, rpobably. However, when you are on a foreign military base I have no doubt there are many different layers of protocol to follow. Expecting Immigration personnel to be present is nonsensical, could the base commander have worked with United to ease things, probably.

  9. Martin Johnson

    January 24, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    This is ridiculous. Certainly another plane could have been sent.

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