WASHINGTON — Administration officials promised Wednesday to make changes before the Christmas travel season in an effort to prevent airline passengers from suffering the nightmare of being trapped for hours on a tarmac with no way to reach an airport gate.
"We can move pretty quickly on this," Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt told reporters after hosting a forum with airlines, airports and government officials on ways to prevent a repeat of an October incident that left hundreds of passengers stranded in Hartford, Conn.
Twenty-eight planes — seven were large international flights — arrived unexpectedly at Bradley International Airport on Oct. 29 during a freak snowstorm. The planes were forced to divert because weather and equipment problems prevented them from landing at New York area airports.
Many of the flights sat on the ground for hours — several for more than seven hours — before they could either refuel and depart or unload their passengers. The captain of JetBlue flight 504 begged for help to get his plane to a gate, saying passengers were becoming unruly and he had paraplegic and diabetic passengers who needed to get off.
Within the next week, the FAA is taking steps to improve information sharing among airlines, airports and air-traffic controllers, Babbitt said. Much of the chaos during the Hartford incident could have been mitigated by better communication, he said.