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Canceled Allegiant flight led to long wait for passengers

CLEARWATER — An Allegiant Air flight from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Asheville, N.C., was canceled Sunday night after the plane suffered mechanical and then personnel problems.

That left 163 passengers stuck in a small part of the airport for six hours while the airline worked to get the plane fixed. But by the time the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 was ready to fly that evening, the flight crew "timed out" and could not work more hours.

Both the airport and airline said they tried to help the stranded passengers of Flight 810. The airport said it kept a cafe open to feed them, while the airline said it offered passengers a range of options to compensate them until the rescheduled flight took off Monday.

"I think people were understandably upset," said airport spokeswoman Michele Routh.

Allegiant is St. Pete-Clearwater International's dominant carrier and Asheville is the airport's newest route. It started in June and takes off twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.

But on Sunday, according to the airline, the captain realized the MD-83 had a battery issue. The flight's 3 p.m. departure was delayed while a maintenance crew worked on the problem.

But while the flight was delayed, circumstances kept passengers stuck in the gate area, unable to roam the airport. St. Pete-Clearwater's gate area is a smaller room inside the main building itself. After 7 p.m., there were no more Transportation Security Administration officers to search them again if they wanted to board the flight. Airport officials stayed with the passengers during their wait, Routh said.

The airport said the passengers were sent home by 9:21 p.m. Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said crews were able to get a replacement part to fix the plane, but by that time the flight crew had exceeded the number of hours it could work.

The airline said it gave every passenger a $100 voucher toward future Allegiant flights. It also offered to reschedule their flights, to cancel their tickets and give them full credit toward future tickets, and booked hotel rooms to those who drove more than 50 miles.

The airline spokeswoman could not say how many rooms were booked or when those options were offered, but the airline typically starts doling out vouchers after four hours and refunds after six.

On Monday, a different Allegiant MD-83 took off for Asheville at 1:04 p.m. with 125 passengers and landed at 2:19 p.m.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3404.

Canceled Allegiant flight led to long wait for passengers 07/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 9:38pm]
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