Yesterday I shared the story of Saturday’s Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco, which was delayed on the tarmac for 12 hours due to fog. Passengers weren’t allowed to deplane, so that made for a 28 hour flight.
This obviously raises a lot of questions. In the US we have the four hour tarmac rule, which is a case where government regulation makes sense, in my opinion, since we can’t really trust airlines to self regulate.
Anyway, an Etihad Airways spokesperson forwarded me the following statement regarding EY183, which I figured I’d share here:
Etihad Airways has apologized to passengers on board flight EY183 from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco, on Saturday, January 3, for the significant delay they experienced during the unprecedented fog disruption at Abu Dhabi Airport.
EY183 was one of the flights most affected by the runway closure at 2.30am and the subsequent congestion and significant delays which impacted all airlines.
During the time on the ground, awaiting permission to take-off, passengers were provided with refreshments and were updated about the reasons for the rolling delay caused by the extreme weather conditions.
The passengers remained on the aircraft as all efforts were being made to secure a new departure time. The delay was then compounded by the requirement to replace the aircraft’s ultra-long haul operating crew who had exceeded their flight time limitations.
The aircraft pushed-back at 2.15pm local time and took-off a short time later.
Etihad Airways always strives to deliver the highest standards of customer service and on this occasion our ability to do so was impacted by circumstances which were largely beyond our control.
I certainly understand the intent of wanting to keep everyone onboard. With weather delays, departure slots do often open up on short notice, and if everyone’s in the terminal it can literally take hours until a plane is ready for takeoff, given that many people would rebook/cancel and their bags would have to be offloaded, etc. It’s a logistical nightmare.
At the same time, common sense has to be applied at some point. It’s just not okay to keep people on a plane for 12 hours on the tarmac against their will. This is a case where I think there’s value in just delaying a flight by a certain number of hours so that people can make their own decisions as to what they’d like to do. Cancel the flight and reschedule it for 24 hours later, in my opinion, even if that means people would get to their destination later than if they just sat on the plane and waited.
Then again, I don’t envy the job of the ground staff that have to deal with the situation. Between visas, baggage, and rebooking, it’s certainly a sticky situation.
I get why an airline would want to keep everyone aboard for one hour… or two hours… or three hours… or even four hours, if it meant securing a departure slot as soon as possible. But where should the line be drawn?
What do you think? At what point should they just reschedule the flight for a later time as opposed to keeping everyone aboard?