Virgin Atlantic Flight Stuck In Connecticut For 4 Hours

and I say big deal.  A Virgin Atlantic flight from the UK to Newark (NYC) had to land at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Tuesday because of severe weather in the New York City area.   People were kept on board for 4 hours and some reports claim people were overheated and “passing out”.  The plane was described as “dark and hot” during the 4 hours it sat on the ground. 

I am somewhat skeptical of the drama myself.  4 hours is a long time but no one dies from sitting on an aircraft for 4 hours because of weather.  If they did die during such a time, it wasn’t because of the airplane or conditions.  All the stories I’ve read so far have that sensationalistic hint of excess in them. 

What about the 3 Hour Rule?  Well, Virgin Atlantic isn’t currently subject to that because this was an international flight and they are a foreign carrier.  I’ll note that the FAA wants to extend that rule to such flights and I don’t disagree with that.

Was this “wrong”?  Yeah, I do think so.  It’s customary for flights to land at that airport to wait out storms but that airport really isn’t capable of handling large international flights with customs and immigration needs.  The typical flight lands there, refuels and waits for the weather to clear enough for them to proceed.  Bradley International is very close to NYC and it is relatively cheap for a flight to land there and wait.   As a legal diversion airport, it is attractive to airlines for just those reasons.

However, is it the appropriate airport?  No, not really.  Lack of facilities to deal with large, widebody aircraft holding hundreds of passengers who need customs and immigrations processing make it a far less than ideal airport.  It’s acceptable as a diversion for an emergency, it is unacceptable as a diversion for weather, in my opinion.  There are plenty of airports in that general area who can deal with the passenger volumes and their international needs.   Airports such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston.   I would point out that there are not one but 3 airports in the NYC area capable of handling that aircraft as well. 

Certainly the passengers have a right to be annoyed and feel inconvenienced (most were bussed to Newark and that would *really* annoy me) but to act as if this was a human rights violation is carrying it over the line.

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