Flights Canceled / Delayed / Overbooked Were you on a flight that was delayed, canceled, or overbooked?

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Old Dec 22, 2009, 11:49 PM
ID-NJ ID-NJ is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 2
Default Stranded on December 19 at Newark during the snow storm

My family just had a horrible experience on December 19 that has exceeded my previous worst airline experience by a wide margin...and I've traveled quite a lot. Any lawyer advice? I really want to do something about this.

Our flight (Continental 78) actually sat in the airplane for close to 6 (yes, six!) hours on December 19 during the "blizzard of 2009". The plane was supposed to leave at 6:50pm from Newark, direction Zurich, Switzerland. It was listed as "on-time" and we boarded without any problems. However, we stayed at the gate for 2 1/2 hours after scheduled departure because four people had to be removed from the plane (we were told due to some vague security concerns) and then their bags had to be removed as well. After this delay we moved to a remote area for de-icing where we spend 1 1/2 hours before reaching the runway. At that time the pilot remembered about the 3 hour federal rule (the one that came after the JetBlue episode) and to everyone's complete astonishment we were told we have to go back to the gate to, quote, "stretch our legs". We had to wait for an hour to deplane, however, because of a frozen jetway. Once parked back at the gate we were told that we have to take all our luggage and deplane. Our misfortune then got worse because at that time Continental decided conveniently (for them) to cancel the flight altogether and everyone had to line up with customer service for "accommodations." It took me two hours to get to speak with an agent. There were of course no accommodations or any sort of consideration or remorse on part of the airline. I was told that there are no flights going out to Zurich over the next 4-5 days; my long planned 1-week family vacation was ruined. My wife and daughter were very upset AND we had to wait for 2 hours in line to be told that there is nothing that the airline can do! At that time it was already 3AM! But of course there is a lot the airline can do. They just didn't want to bother. If this was Europe, they would have to provide sleeping accommodations and then re-plane at the earliest possible hour. Not cancel, just delay the departure. People will understand. Instead, 200 people were treated like baggage. To add insult to injury, when I told the airline that I would like to get a refund since they could not find me a flight over the next 5 days, I was told that I can only "apply for a refund" and there is no guarantee I will get it. I am at the mercy of the airline! In the meantime our plans are ruined, and I have spent over $1000 to pre-book accommodations in Europe, money I will not get back.

P.S> I think the three hour rule will do little to help without being part of a broader measure like a Congress-mandated bill of passanger rights.
Old Dec 23, 2009, 1:38 AM
cortney cortney is offline
Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 288

no flights because its the holiday season. the airline did the right thing and took you back to the gate otherwise its a $27,500 per passenger fine for the airline. passengers wanted a system and they got it, now some are complaining about the system. the weather out east was terrible and caused thousands and thousands of cancellations and delays. there were dozens of aircraft that had to be deiced and the way it was coming down, it took a while. i know some airlines were offering refunds to cancel or waiving the change fees but of course flights are booked full during this week.

i agree the 3 hour thing will cause more harm. it will cause more delays and cancellations with the airlines. i agree with you on that
Old Dec 23, 2009, 1:49 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Shropshire, England
Posts: 3,197

If the tale related by the OP is correct, this has nothing to do with the 3 hour rule. I am not even sure the rule is in place. The initial delay was not weather related.. it was security related, which involved removing 4 people and their luggage. This is ridiculous. Why were they allowed to board? Why did it take 2.5 hours to remove them.

Second, if the airplane had been de-iced and was lining up for departure, the Captain, even under the new rules (which I doubt are in force yet), would be able to take off. The explanations provided don't really make sense (but what's new, airline employees seem to be programmed to be liars, making up excuses as they go and hoping they won't get caught).

Trying to blame the new 3 hour ruling is pathetic...
Old Dec 23, 2009, 2:19 AM
cortney cortney is offline
Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 288

#1 im not a liar...the airlines are so screwed up right now, even i can admit that.
#2 with all the bags on the a/c it may have taken a while to remove the bags, and maybe the passengers were hard and refused to get off (i dont know i wasnt there so cant say forsure)
#3 they may have decided to cancel the flight all together in the end because the weather may have turned worse

december 19th was a bad day to travel. i went MCO-ORD and was delayed because the plane came from the east coast then ord (had to deice there as well) I have been stuck on planes for 3+ hours and i agree, it sucks and it was with a gov. regulated airline..didnt get squat out of them!! and it was to OP that stated the captain remembered the 3 hour rule, so if it wasnt in place yet then that wouldnt make scense. i heard about this rule becoming a possibility a few days ago. flights are full during this time of year.
Old Dec 23, 2009, 2:32 AM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,366

I'm sure offloading specific bags during a snow and ice storm isn't easy and the weather undoubtedly played a role in the time it took to offload those bags. The OP will never know just what the "security issue" was nor does he have a right to know that information. As far as I know APIS (Advanced Passenger Information) is only transmitted to the destination country after all passengers are checked-in with documents verified. The final verification of those documents takes place just prior to boarding at the gate. There must have been something about those passengers that raised a red flag after their passport and other identifying information was transmitted to Zurich. If it were me I would much rather they remove those passengers and their bags and sort things out prior to the plane departing.

As for the pilot's announcement of the 3 hour rule and the return to gate to "stretch our legs" I think it might have been a jab at the passengers which is not aceptable. The new rules were just released by the DOT yesterday and I believe the airlines have 90 days to be in compliance. It seems to me that citing the new DOT rules, even if the pilot had knowledge of them, was jumping the gun a bit. Sort of a "well, you spoke and the government listened so this is now the way things are going to be..." kind of thing.

I believe cortney is correct in assuming the weather may have worsened causing the cancellation. After a certain point the airport may not have had the manpower to effectively keep up with snow removal and/or the airline's ramp employees responsible for de-icing hit their maximum time allowed to work. Also the flight crew may have timed out. If the OP cares to write a letter to Continental they should be able to tell him the exact reason for the cancellation however the root cause will be weather. The OP will get a refund of the airfare. As for the other pre-paid expenses hopefully there was some travel insurance purchased to cover those.
Old Dec 23, 2009, 3:53 AM
Leatherboy2006 Leatherboy2006 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 340

I thought it was going down to 2 hour rule? That is going to cause big problems especially during snow/ice and thunderstorms (which we are suppose to have tonight and tomorrow in Dallas, big T-storms)
Old Dec 23, 2009, 4:44 AM
Silent Bob Silent Bob is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: NY NY
Posts: 510

You can't blame the 3 hour rule for something that went into effect today (please correct me if i am wrong I just saw it on CNN this afternoon), but there was a blizzard in the area which the OP seems to have left out (though he does mention deicing, you can deice in many given situations such as icy rain, sleet, etc).

Our misfortune then got worse because at that time Continental decided conveniently (for them) to cancel the flight altogether and everyone had to line up with customer service for "accommodations."
How is that convenient? They still have to rebook you, and its my understanding (watching CNN today) that most if not all flights are fully booked because of the holiday. But as far as getting a refund you should be able to with no problem given it was severe weather, give them a call.
Old Dec 23, 2009, 5:28 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 745

Just a note. Depending on the conditions, an aircraft may have to be deiced more than once, and sometimes that means returning to the gate. Not all airports have the ability to deice on the go.
Old Dec 23, 2009, 5:47 PM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,366

In the OPs case this was Continental at Newark. They have a holding area just short of the taxiway that is used for de-icing operations. I've been there several times! Sometimes the holding area fills up (especially in the evening when most of the Europe-bound wide-bodies leave) so that's probably why they sent the aircraft back to a gate. Simply a matte of no rom to park elsewhere. The OP was lucky there was a vacant gate where the aircraft could park!

Bottom line is the NY area hasn't seen a storm like this in 5 years. I should know because the last "big one" I was stranded in Charlotte trying to get to Newark and gave up and flew back to Phoenix. If you are departing from or connecting through an airport that is known to have occasional disruptions due to winter weather it is advisable to buy travel insurance if your plans have you traveling anytime between November and March.

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