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At least 4 jets strand Conn. passengers for hours

NEW YORK — It was a passengers' nightmare at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn., this weekend.

Passengers on at least three JetBlue planes and one American Airlines plane say they were stranded on the tarmac for seven hours or more after being diverted from New York-area airports on Saturday amid a snowstorm.

The ordeal continued after they were let off and had to spend the night on cots and chairs in terminals.

A passenger on one of the diverted JetBlue planes says the crew ran out of snacks and bottled water for the last few hours of the delay.

"The toilets were backed up. When you flushed, nothing would happen," said Andrew Carter, a reporter for the Sun Sentinel of Florida, who was traveling to cover the Miami Dolphins game against the New York Giants on Sunday. His plane took off from Fort Lauderdale for Newark Liberty International Airport around 9 a.m. Saturday. After being diverted to Hartford, the plane sat on the tarmac between around 1:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., he said.

A representative for Bradley International wasn't available to comment on the scope of the tarmac delays at the airport.

A JetBlue spokeswoman, Victoria Lucia, confirmed in an e-mailed statement that six of its planes, carrying a total of about 700 passengers, were diverted to Hartford due to a "confluence of events" including equipment failures at Newark and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport that prevented planes from landing in low visibility.

She declined to specify how long the planes sat on the tarmac at Bradley, but noted that 17 other flights with different carriers were also diverted to the airport.

Once the planes landed at Bradley, Lucia said intermittent power outages at the airport made refueling and deplaning difficult.

Kate Hanni, executive editor for FlyersRights.org, said she got calls and e-mails from passengers and worried family members regarding at least four flights that were stranded on the tarmac for up to 10 hours.

Brent Stanley and his wife were on one of those planes, an American Airlines flight that was headed to JFK after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

After being diverted and landing in Hartford at 2:30 p.m., Stanley said passengers were given various reasons for being held on the tarmac, including the need to refuel and de-ice and the airport's limited capacity for handling international flights. He and his wife were eager to get back home to their two young sons in Lake Zurich, Ill. But they realized they didn't have it as bad as the parents who had infants on the plane.

"There was a lady in front of us with an 18-month-old daughter," Stanley said. "Another woman came by to borrow diapers because we couldn't get to our luggage."

An American Airlines spokesman, Ed Martelle, said the passengers weren't allowed off the plane by customs at the airport. Martelle did not know the exact number of American planes that were diverted to Bradley or how long they sat on the tarmac.

Matt Shellenberger, who was on a JetBlue flight from Boston to JFK, said his plane was diverted to Bradley International and sat on the tarmac for seven hours.

The crew picked up trash regularly and handed out water and snacks, and "everyone held their cool," he said. But his frustrations grew with each status update; the reasons for the delay kept changing as the hours passed.

Early on, passengers were told that the plane was just being refueled and would fly out soon, Shellenberger said. Then they were told it was being de-iced. Then there was an emergency on another plane.

"We were told we were the third plane in line to get to the gate when we landed," he said. "Then we stayed on the plane for seven hours."

At least 4 jets strand Conn. passengers for hours 10/30/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 30, 2011 11:01pm]
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