Passengers describe extra 18 hours on plane
SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- Some of the 300 passengers stuck on an international flight that was delayed 18 hours by fog, regulations and mechanical glitches said the passengers were almost ready to riot as the wait dragged on.
Food and water ran short, and the toilets stopped working before Northwest Airlines Flight 33 finally reached Seattle early Wednesday, 28 hours after leaving Amsterdam.
One man with an infant punched a wall, then ran up an aisle and "charged the cockpit with his baby," passenger Barry Wallis said in an interview broadcast Thursday on NBC's "Today."
"At one point it seemed like we would have a riot towards the end," Wallis said.
The ordeal began when heavy fog prevented the plane from landing in Seattle as scheduled Tuesday afternoon, forcing the pilot to circle the airport until fuel ran low. The plane was then diverted to Moses Lake, Washington, where it sat on a runway for hours while a fresh crew traveled from Minnesota. The airline regulates how many consecutive hours crew members may work.
Passengers initially had to wait onboard because the Grant County International Airport was not equipped to screen international travelers. Officials cleared a terminal and posted sheriff's deputies at the entrances before allowing passengers to leave -- but not until more than after 18 hours after boarding the flight.
"It's like we're hostages without being in any kind of hostage situation," passenger Misha Shmidt told The Seattle Times from the plane Tuesday night.
Mechanical problems delayed the relief crew's flight, but even after it arrived, more bad weather forced Flight 33 to wait again.
John Castle, who was traveling with his family, described the atmosphere as "stale, foul and we're all tired."
One man had to be taken off the plane by medics, and a second passenger was treated for an undisclosed medical emergency. One passenger was given an oxygen mask, Wallis said. Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik said she had no immediate information about their conditions.
Pizza and soda were eventually brought on board and the toilets were repaired.
Stanik apologized for the problems and said passengers would receive a gift pack that included phone cards and vouchers for a free ticket anywhere Northwest flies in the United States and Canada.
Customs spokesman Mike Milne said the passengers were kept on board to ensure security and follow the law. "We're not doing it to be mean," he said.