Hundreds of passengers on at least half a dozen other flights reported similar delays after thunderstorms fell trees, flooded roads and left thousands without power in the Washington region. The meltdown has raised questions about whether the industry is prepared for the summer travel season, as it is struggling with a continuing shortage of labor and weather-related disruptions that have long been the biggest source of delays.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights Sunday night at National, as well as at Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall airports, until conditions improved. But at the hardest hit National, the lag apparently left the airport without enough ports to accommodate all arrivals.
United fined for keeping thousands of passengers stuck in planes for hours
According to the flight tracking site FlightAware, more than a quarter of the flights that were to arrive on National Sunday were delayed, while a further 14 percent were canceled. Among departures, almost 30 per cent were delayed while 19 per cent were canceled.
National and Dulles saw gusts up to 59 mph as the storms rolled through.
Despite an increase in demand for flights, airlines have trimmed their schedules in recent months, hoping to avoid a repeat of last summer, when weather-related delays – exacerbated by staff shortages – left tens of thousands of customers stranded. Airlines are trying to replace more than 50,000 workers who have left the industry since the start of the pandemic. Thousands of new employees are still being trained.
While airlines say they are focused on operating reliably, some travelers, including those caught in Sunday night’s delays at National, said frequent disruptions are causing them to reconsider flights.
Eric Shierling’s patience was already running out when he arrived in Washington. His original flight from Birmingham, Ala., Which was scheduled to depart early Sunday, was canceled and the flight he was rebooked on was delayed several times. He had hoped his long day was almost over over when he landed at National at 12:24 on Monday, just to get the captain to announce another case.
“The pilot told us there were no gates because everyone had arrived at the airport at the same time,” said Shierling, a project engineer.
When he looked out the window and saw two other planes parked to the right and two to the left, his heart sank.
It would be four hours before the passengers were allowed to leave the plane, then he still had to take a new plane to get to Connecticut, where he was on his way to business. The crew did their best, he said, providing snacks and water, and even broke into a pile of goodies reserved for first-class passengers.
Airlines are trimming summer schedules, with the aim of avoiding high-profile meltdowns
The delays, which lasted for two days, entailed additional costs and inconvenience.
“I’m angry and I’m angry,” he said Monday as he waited. He was originally scheduled to fly to Bradley International outside Hartford, a 30-minute drive to his workplace, but the only plane available on Monday was to Albany, about 90 minutes away. “I would not be in this situation if my original flight had not been canceled. This is what makes me so angry at American (Airlines). “
Passengers said airport officials rejected requests from US to use shuttles which could carry passengers to the terminal, as well as requests to move aircraft closer to the hall so that passengers could be escorted into the building.
Officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages operations at the National Airport, declined to comment. Rob Yingling, a spokesman for National Airport, referred questions about the events Sunday night to individual airlines.
In a statement, American Airlines officials weathered.
“A small number of arriving aircraft experienced departure delays as they waited for available ports at the terminal,” the statement said. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and thank our team members who worked hard to resolve the situation.”
@loriara the time is 02:45 and I have been stuck on the tarmac at Reagan National with people from 7 other flights for well over three hours with no end in sight. The airport authority has not approved any method to get us out of the planes. I consider this an SOS @AmericanAir
– Thai Austin (@thaisaustin) May 23, 2022
The Ministry of Transport regulates close delays on the asphalt that occur before planes take off or after they have landed.
According to a rule that came into place in 2010, airlines are required to drop off domestic passengers within three hours, while international passengers must be able to depart. within four hours. After two hours, the airlines are required to offer water and a snack at the same time as they make sure that the toilets work.
The regulations were put in place after high-profile incidents where travelers were stranded on planes for 10 hours or more. Such cases are investigated by the department’s office for aviation consumer protection.
It was not clear on Monday whether American Airlines will be fined for the delays. Officials at the Ministry of Transport did not respond to inquiries on Sunday.
Arlington resident John Rodriguez said he would return home Sunday from a trip to Birmingham. His original plane had planned to land at 20.30, but the plane he was booked on in the country not until after midnight. He and fellow passengers spent four more hours on the plane.
Rodriguez said he could see at least half a dozen other planes that also appeared to be stuck. The flight attendants handed out cookies and water, while the captain offered updates every hour, he said.
Outside the airport, nearly 40,000 customers lost power Sunday night in Virginia, according to PowerOutage.US. Monday night, only a handful of customers were still without power, according to Dominion Energy. Power had also been restored to Pepco customers in the district and Maryland, the tool said.
Matthew Cappucci contributed to this report.