United Airlines Puts Up Chicago Flight Passengers in Military Barracks, Customers Outraged

Passengers that were on a flight from Chicago to London posted their grievances on social media after the plane made an unexpected stop, forcing passengers to spend 20 hours in a Canadian military barracks. 

Flight 958 was on its way from O’Hare International Airport to London Heathrow Airport by the scheduled time of 5:26 p.m. before the pilot announced they would soon be making an emergency landing due to what the company says was a “maintenance issue.”

Lois Harper, who was on her way home to Stamford, England at the time, told NBC Chicago she and 176 others then sat on the plane for hours before the crew told them they were being diverted to Goose Bay, Canada to spend the night in military barracks. FlightAware.com shows the flight landed in the chilly Canadian city at 11:30 p.m. local time. 

Many passengers claim they were dropped off at the barracks to manage on their own without heat, towels, blankets, luggage or most importantly – answers.

While the passengers made do for 20 hours in the military camp site, one of the biggest frustrations accounted for in the social media frenzy was that the 11 crew members on board were nowhere to be found – because they were resting comfortably in nearby hotel accommodations.

"The crew must rest in order to continue the flight. You can rest on board the aircraft knowing that they are in charge," United responded to one angry passenger on Twitter.

Mary Ryan, a spokesperson for the airline said in statement that there was simply not enough hotel space available in Goose Bay, “so we accommodated our customers at a local military base and provided meals.”

“We apologize to our customers for the disruption, and we recognize this was a considerable inconvenience, so we will be refunding their tickets to London and providing additional compensation,” Ryan added.

Once a new plane arrived, the group was eventually flown to Newark, New Jersey about 10 p.m. Saturday where they then took off for their final destination of London on Sunday afternoon.

Despite the prolonged case of jetlag and travel-related annoyance the passengers aboard may have had to recover from (and we all can sympathize with), regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration point to a strong defense for the airline.

The latest rules and regulations mandating pilot and crew fatigue released by the FAA in 2011 show an airline carrier must provide an environment that permits “sufficient” sleep and recovery periods for all crewmembers on a flight in cases like these – and quite frankly, sleeping amongst hundreds of other passengers does not seem to qualify.

FAA’s regulations demand all crewmembers must report for duty after a minimum of 10 hours of measured “rest” and at least 8 hours of logged and solid sleep in order to be fit to fly.

“We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of the rulings in a release on the FAA’s website. “This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”

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