WASHINGTON - The massive winter storm caused a huge travel mess for airline passengers on the East Coast. Several flights heading to New York were diverted to Dulles International Airport after John F. Kennedy International Airport was shut down due to the weather.
However, after being diverted to Dulles, several passengers on Aerolineas Argentinas Flight 1300 from Buenos Aires to New York said they were held on the tarmac for several hours after landing at around noon on Thursday.
Some of those passengers called the airline, 911 and even our newsroom at FOX 5 about their extreme frustration with the flight crew after being kept on the plane for more four hours before the pilot finally agreed to let the passengers get off the plane.
“We presented them with information that we could see on our phones that JFK was closed until at least 8 o’clock," a female passenger said. "At that stage, they were mini revolts going on the plane and then they called the buses in.”
However, airport officials said it is ultimately the pilot and the airline that get to decide to cancel the flight and allow the passengers to deplane.
“They were hoping to stay on board and refuel and then make it to their final destination JFK at some point this evening when the airport reopened,” said Andrew Trull, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “We had 19 other diversions come through the airport today -- all of which chose to cancel and disembark clearing customs.”
“It just wasn't right,” another passenger said. “The pilot wasn't making the proper decisions. The flight was already delayed three hours. We were in the air for 11 ½ hours. We were on the ground for four hours and then he is going to turn around and fly the plane to JFK? Does he have the mental capacity do that at that point in this weather condition? People were scared. They said if the plane was going to take off, everybody was going to stand up.”
Inside the airport, passengers were welcomed with boxed sandwiches and pizza, but that wasn't until 7 p.m. after they cleared customs. Many of the travelers then boarded on buses to New York.
The airline could be facing a hefty penalty for holding passengers on the tarmac for as long they did.
“The passenger rights that FAA has prohibits airlines from keeping passengers on the plane on the tarmac for three hours domestically and four hours internationally,” said Trull. “So I know our airport operations team was in contact with both the pilot and then the station manager in JFK and talking to them about options and working to accommodate them. Ultimately, they did decide to cancel the flight and they are in the process of clearing customs now.”
FOX 5 reached out to Aerolineas Argentinas, but did not receive a response as of Thursday night.