SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Imagine being stuck in a plane for more than a day.
That was the nightmare travel scenario for passengers in Abu Dhabi trying to make it to San Francisco.
Etihad Airways Flight 183 got stuck on the tarmac for over 12 hours after fog forced the temporary closure of Abu Dhabi Airport on Saturday. That, on top of the 16-hour flight to SFO, made for some very unhappy campers. All told, they spent more than 28 hours on the plane.
The airline wouldn’t allow passengers to get off, so some took to social media to vent that they were hungry, sleep deprived, and never flying with the airline again.
As San Francisco International Airport awaited Flight 183’s arrival, angry Twitter posts were coming in by the hundreds.
Inside the airport, conditions were not much better.
One passenger tweeted he felt like he was in a Seinfield episode.
When Flight 183 finally landed at SFO around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, passengers looked tired. The feeling of land under their feet was bittersweet.
“Out of every airline, this has been the worst experience in my life,” said Vinay Ramakrishna. “There’s no sanitation, they’re out of water, out of tissues, out of apples, out of chocolates!”
Friends and family of the passengers who waited all day at SFO to pick up their loved ones were equally dismayed. Molly Rogers was particularly anxious. Her 11-year-old daughter was on the flight alone and Rogers was unable to reach anyone at the airline who could tell her what was going on. She finally saw her daughter after a 28-hour wait.
“I was really missing my mom,” said the girl.
It was no joke for Etihad Airlines, either. The airline responded with a statement saying:
Today in Abu Dhabi we have experienced extraordinary weather conditions which have caused severe disruption to our flights. Etihad Airways is working around the clock to restore flight schedules and to ensure that guests can travel as soon as possible. Normal change or cancellation fees will be waived.
In fact, Etihad Airlines could be facing steep fines as a result of the tarmac delay. Had it happened in the U.S., fines would start after 3 hours on the tarmac for domestic flights; four hours for international flights. Fines can go as high as $27,000 per passenger.
It’s unclear whether Etihad Airways will owe passengers anything, since the delay happened overseas.