Video: Air Transat Brussels-Montreal diverts to Ottawa; passengers call 911 after being stuck in the plane for six hours

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Air Transat flight TS157 from Brussels was scheduled to arrive in Montreal at 3:15 p.m. ET Monday, but was diverted to Ottawa after circling east of Montreal due to thunderstorms. The flight landed at the Ottawa airport just after 5 p.m. ET, after more than eight hours of flying time. It then sat on the tarmac for six hours, and passengers weren’t allowed to get off. (Forum discussion). A NBC News footage:

Laura Mah, who was on board, spoke to CBC News as they waited. “The plane actually lost power and went zero air conditioning, and then now we’ve got the doors open and one kid is puking, and people are just losing their minds,” she said.

“They’re just getting mad, saying ‘This is not all right, this is not OK, you can’t do this to us.’ The police are in here and the fire department’s in here and they’re telling us that they can’t do anything, that we just have to stay put.”

One of the passengers called 911, Mah said. Paramedics arrived and handed out water to the stranded, hot passengers. The flight finally left Ottawa at about 11 p.m. ET and landed at about 11:30 ET, eight hours and 15 minutes late.

The press statements of Air Transat and Ottawa airport are completely different, the airline states that the airport was unable to give the flight crew the green light to deplane or to refill the airplane’s empty drinking water reservoir. While the airport later announced that the Airport Authority was in contact with the airline’s local ground handler. “We had a gate available and air stairs ready in the event that the airline decided to deplane. We also had buses on the tarmac ready to shuttle passengers to the terminal – buses the Authority purchased specifically for situations such as this. Neither the ground handling service nor the airline requested either of these during the event.”

Air Transat statement:

Following yesterday’s violent late-afternoon thunderstorms in Montreal, some of our flights from Europe and the South had to be diverted to other airports. Unfortunately, this unusual situation beyond our control caused delays of several hours for our passengers.

Flight TS157, an Airbus A330 from Brussels with 336 passengers on board, had to land in Ottawa instead of Montreal. Nearly 30 planes with several airlines, including Air Transat, were diverted to Ottawa, creating exceptional traffic there. As a result, Ottawa airport staff were unable to provide with loading bridges or stairs that would have enabled the passengers on the Brussels flight to disembark or our ground crews to replenish the aircraft’s empty drinking water reservoir.

The delays that affected our passengers yesterday were caused mainly by congestion on the ramp at Ottawa airport as well as by delays in refuelling our aircraft. The shortage of fuel on TS157 also explains the lack of air conditioning on board for a time.

We sincerely regret the inconveniences for our passengers caused by this situation that was beyond our control.

The airline later tweeted:

Ottowa Airport statement:

Severe weather in both Toronto and Montreal last evening, resulted in 20 aircraft being diverted to the Ottawa International Airport, beginning at approximately 3:45 pm. Of the 20 flights, 15 were from international destinations, and included nearly 5,000 passengers. The last plane departed at approximately 11:00 pm.

Questions have been raised with respect to one particular flight operated by Air Transat, between Brussels, Belgium and Montreal, Quebec. The aircraft landed in Ottawa at 5:10 pm and departed at 11:00 pm. With respect to this flight, the Airport Authority was in contact with the airline’s local ground handler. We had a gate available and air stairs ready in the event that the airline decided to deplane. We also had buses on the tarmac ready to shuttle passengers to the terminal – buses the Authority purchased specifically for situations such as this. Neither the ground handling service nor the airline requested either of these during the event.

At approximately 9:00 pm, the Authority and the City of Ottawa’s 9-1-1 dispatch centre received several calls from passengers on the aircraft requesting medical assistance. As such, a full emergency response was activated including Airport Emergency Response Service, Ottawa Paramedic Services and Ottawa Police Service. One passenger was treated. Once in the aircraft, Airport Authority personnel realized that the aircraft had no operating air conditioning. We made arrangements for bottled water to be delivered to the aircraft and distributed by Authority personnel. We also offered to bring fans to the aircraft to help cool it. Our staff also suggested to the flight crew that all doors on the aircraft be open to permit fresh air to enter the aircraft. In response to a frantic passenger whose pet was kennelled in the cargo hold of the aircraft, the Airport Authority coordinated with Canada Border Services Agency to provide water to the dog and ensure it was in no danger.

While the responsibility for deciding whether a flight is deplaned and processed through Canada Customs rests entirely with the airline, the Ottawa Airport has a comprehensive Customer Care Program that is ready for deployment as needed. Our team was on standby shortly after the first diversion landed, but our services were not requested. We keep a supply of water, food, diapers and other personal hygiene necessities to support passenger needs in irregular operation scenarios, and were prepared to deploy these supplies. Although our staff tried several times to contact the aircrew through the handlers to provide further assistance, the air crew was non-communicative and did not take us up on our offers to assist further.

Providing the best possible customer experience is a priority for the Ottawa International Airport Authority, and we are disappointed that Air Transat has not been forthcoming, transparent or accountable with information concerning their diverted flights. We understand the Minister of Transport is developing legislation to clarify the responsibilities of air carriers with a view to strengthening passenger rights. Bill C-49, which was introduced in May of this year, will be studied in Parliament beginning in September.

Ottawa Airport tweet:

Belgian Triathlete Marino Vanhoenacker was also on board the Air Transat flight:

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