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Virgin Atlantic passengers stranded on tarmac for hours

Virgin Atlantic passenger Sujata Patel, left, stands with Ramila Teli and Laxmiben Patel, right, outside the Newark airport after arriving Wednesday by bus from Connecticut. Their plane was grounded en route to Newark from London because of bad weather.

Associated Press

Virgin Atlantic passenger Sujata Patel, left, stands with Ramila Teli and Laxmiben Patel, right, outside the Newark airport after arriving Wednesday by bus from Connecticut. Their plane was grounded en route to Newark from London because of bad weather.

NEWARK, N.J. — Passengers who spent hours stuck on a hot, dark plane on the tarmac in Connecticut described on Wednesday a scene of confusion and misery as their Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Newark, N.J., was delayed, then diverted.

Bad weather grounded the flight at Connecticut's Bradley International Airport outside Hartford. Passengers say they landed at about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday and were kept on the plane until about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Once inside the terminal, passengers were delayed three or four more hours as they waited to get through customs.

"Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused," the airline said Wednesday in a statement.

The three-hour limit on tarmac strandings that went into effect in April doesn't apply to foreign carriers or international flights by U.S. carriers, although U.S. carriers are required to have contingency plans for returning passengers waiting for prolonged periods on planes to airport terminals.

Virgin was checking into reports of mechanical issues and the jet not having the air conditioner running while it was stalled.

Earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed extending the requirement for contingency plans to foreign carriers. The proposal included a request for comment from airlines and the public on whether the Transportation Department should also extend a firm three-hour limit to international flights by U.S. and foreign carriers.

Ken Cast, an airport operations specialist at Bradley, confirmed that a few passengers who weren't feeling well were treated by paramedics. Details on the sick passengers weren't immediately available.

Virgin Atlantic passengers stranded on tarmac for hours 06/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 24, 2010 9:16am]

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