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Nightmare Virgin America Flight has Kind of Happy Ending

March 16, 2010 | Posted in: Airline News,Delays,Delta,DOT,Storms,Travel Tips,Weather

virgin america flight nightmare

Everyone called it a “nightmare” flightAOL News did, so did TV stations, although HuffPo opted for “flightmare”.

Whatever, it wasn’t pleasant. Yes, Virgin America left LAX on time Saturday, but circled JFK for a couple of hours while waiting for fierce winds to die down. It didn’t happen, so the plane headed to Upstate New York’s Stewart Airport in Newburgh to wait out the weather. That’s when the problems began.

Passengers say they were then kept waiting — on the plane — for seven hours. They were told they could get off, but then they couldn’t get back on again if the weather cleared. Some got off anyway - the rest shared rationed food — which reportedly worked out to “four potato chips and a half cup of water each.”

 Eventually, JetBlue stepped forward with a bus to take the passengers on the 80 mile drive to JFK.

Here’s what Virgin America did right: CEO David Cush started calling passengers to personally apologize, promised all a refund, and a $100 credit.

What about that new rule that “airlines-must-let-passengers-out-after-3-hours-on-the-plane”? It doesn’t go into effect until April 29.

8 Responses to “Nightmare Virgin America Flight has Kind of Happy Ending”

  1. Norman says:

    When I travel, I look at the weather forcast. Then I pack my own food and snacks, and re-fill two empty water bottles after I clear security. Delays happen and it is my job to take care of myself knowing sometimes the airlines can’t, or don’t. I have never gone hungry or thirsty duing many delays due to this decision. We have all heard of complicated, and gruesomely long delays, so why didn’t these passengers come prepared? I think this airline did a pretty good job.

  2. Rick Seaney says:


    Smart man.


  3. Elaine says:

    For the price of tickets I think they should feed you.

  4. Charles says:

    Have to agree with Norman–though I KNOW why they aren’t prepared.

    For the same reason that the 9/11 flights were easily hijacked, decades of being told to ‘let the authorities handle it.’

    Still, given that airlines hardly ever give out food anymore, you’d think that travelers would plan to carry something.

    On the other hand, delays due to weather etc. do happen. It’s the delays due to the utterly ineffective TSA I object to….

    You do realize that today’s TSA regs wouldn’t have stopped 9/11? And they don’t stop weapons.

    It does provide employment, and it is training millions of people to dress & undress in public….

  5. Jill Dominguez says:

    What are the airlines thinking? I will never travel Virgin America Airlines again. My service dog and I are always prepared for possible delays 2-4 hours and layovers (overnight) but we could not remain trapped on a plane for 16 hours. Knowing that the company would rather make their passengers suffer than find a solution to the issue is unacceptable. That type of disregard is a top down management problem!

  6. Rick Seaney says:


    Nobody was trapped for 16 hours, that was the total time for the trip; and remember, passengers were told they could get off (though they were also told if they did, they couldn’t get back on again).

    This was just a mess from start to finish, and VA knows it. I really don’t think you and your dog need worry.


  7. Jim says:

    Is it an airline rule that they could not get back on or a TSA rule?

    Seams pretty wrong that you could not get off an airplane parked at the gate especially if they have to open up the door for any reason. It would seam reasonable that once they open the door you have 20 minutes or so to get off and then get back on, if you choose.

  8. Rick Seaney says:


    As far as I know, that’s neither a TSA or an “airline” rule; it’s simply what these passengers were told by crew members.

    Remember, starting April 29, a new rule does go into effect, that requires airlines to allow people off after sitting on the ground for 3 hours, and you can see more about it here: http://rickseaney.com/2009/12/21/dot-planes-must-unload-passengers-after-3-hours-on-tarmac/ However, a number of airlines are already requesting waivers from that rule. We’ll see what happens. However, I should point out – these kind of “nightmare” flights are extremely rare.


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