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Passengers forced to sleep at airport after flight diverts

Long wait: passengers spent almost 24 hours in Bermuda after their flight was diverted (Photograph supplied)

More than 300 passengers were forced to sleep on the floor of LF Wade International Airport after a London-bound flight had to divert to Bermuda.

The American Airlines flight left Miami late on Sunday night but had to turn back several hours into the flight with suspected mechanical problems.

A spokesman for airport operator Skyport confirmed that the 777 aircraft touched down in Bermuda shortly after midnight. But safety regulations mean that it cannot leave until last night.

The spokesman said yesterday: “At 12.40am this morning, American Airlines flight 38 en route from Miami, Florida to London Heathrow, arrived at the LF Wade International Airport with 317 persons on board having diverted to the island due to a mechanical issue.

“The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300, landed safely and without incident. All passengers and crew deplaned the aircraft at 1.10am and were housed in the international departures lounge of the new terminal as American Airlines officials advised that they were unable to find a sufficient number of available hotel rooms to accommodate all persons from the flight.

“The airline made light refreshments available for passengers before having meal options catered by late morning. The airport duty-free and retail shops, the bar and restaurant facility, and the Primeclass VIP Lounge with shower facilities were all open and available to passengers during the day.

“American Airlines is sending a relief flight to pick up the passengers. The flight is expected to depart for London Heathrow at approximately 8pm this evening.”

According to news reports, some passengers claimed they were “abandoned” — and that facilities at LF Wade were not satisfactory.

The Press Association quoted one passenger, Jonathan Lo, who said that the pilot explained that there was an indication that the plane’s electronics were overheating.

Mr Lo said: “A little later on it was backed up by a further announcement to say that, actually, they could smell smoke in the aircraft cockpit.

“All was going quite smoothly until we got into the terminal,” he added.

Mr Lo said passengers waited for more than three hours until their first update on the situation, and it only became clear they would need to sleep at the airport at about 5am local time — when airport staff provided them with blankets and pillows taken from the aircraft itself.

“We feel abandoned by the airline really … literally in the middle of the Atlantic.

“When we landed, we didn’t know how long it was going to be. Had we been kept updated regularly, we would have been able to make plans and I’m sure the airport staff would have been able to make plans quicker.”

Another passenger, Danny Wells, was quoted as saying: “We have had to take an extra two days’ holiday from work as we were due to work this morning but will not be able to work tomorrow either.

“We have a family house sitting, and both have now had to take the day off tomorrow as well as they are looking after animals.

“There are rows of people asleep on the floor, the lights have been on almost all night and everyone is freezing because the air con is on so they had to get everyone’s blanket from the plane.”

A spokesman for American Airlines said: “American Airlines flight 38, from Miami to London, diverted to Bermuda (BDA) this morning after a possible mechanical issue.

“We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we apologise for the trouble this has caused.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that officials were at the airport to provide Covid-19 tests for anyone that wanted to leave the facility.

The spokeswoman said: “In this instance, the decision for arranging accommodations is not one to be made by the Ministry of Health. The airline must organise hotel rooms for its passengers in such situations. At no time did American Airlines communicate a desire to have its passengers landed to transfer them to a hotel, even if only for the day.

“The Port Health team at the Ministry of Health stood ready to administer supervised antigen tests for all passengers – as we have done for passengers on previous diverted flights. However, the airline did not make that decision.

“The Ministry of Health’s compliance team also stood by in case a decision was made to allow the passengers to leave the building and stretch their legs in a designated area. Again, no decision was made. We note American’s crew were provided accommodation at a local hotel by the airline.

“Bermuda’s Covid-19 regulations did not in any way prevent American Airlines from taking steps to better accommodate its passengers today.”

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Published August 30, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated August 30, 2022 at 8:05 am)

Passengers forced to sleep at airport after flight diverts

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