Video: Waters, snacks rationed on delayed Virgin America flight

msnbc.com
updated 3/17/2010 11:58:00 AM ET 2010-03-17T15:58:00

Passengers were told to shut up and ration Pringles after what was supposed to be a direct flight from Los Angeles to New York turned into a 16-hour nightmare, travelers told reporters after the weekend ordeal.

"It really wasn't the best situation," passenger David Martin said Tuesday. "Some of the flight crew seemed to lose control."

Martin, CEO of a social-networking firm, said what was to be a 5½ hour flight from LAX to JFK turned into an exhausting, drawn-out drama inside the airplane.

Gusty 60-mph winds in New York forced Virgin America Flight 404 to circle JFK until it was rerouted to Stewart Airport in Newburgh, about 90 miles north. The flight was scheduled for 5:15 p.m. landing. But once the plane landed, passengers were forced to wait for another 4½ hours.

"Normally a diversion stop requires approximately 30 to 60 minutes, however, due to rapidly changing and deteriorating conditions the departure from Stewart was delayed well beyond this time," said a statement released by Virgin America officials.

Virgin admitted "a difficult situation" after landing and waiting on the tarmac.

Airline officials can thank Martin for keeping everyone posted. He chronicled Saturday's jinxed journey online. "Tensions rising big time as we are grounded" and "Virgin crew losing control of passengers" were among his updates.

Department of Transportation officials told NBC News they have opened an investigation into what happened on the flight.

One passenger was said to have suffered a panic attack and was escorted off the plane by police, while others had to wait.

Video: Crew 'snapped' As time passed, tensions flared, Martin said. The waiting turned so ugly that passengers had to beg for chips, cookies, and water, according to Martin's blog posts.

Martin said captain and crew seemed overwhelmed and agitated.

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"One guy said he had a question, and the flight attendant started shouting at this guy, 'You are really getting on my freaking nerves! You need to shut the hell up!'" Martin told New York newspapers.

Some passengers told reporters that they were forced to ration Pringles chips. Each passenger was said to have been given four Pringles and a half-glass of water.

Virgin America confirmed that food was limited and that supplies ran out after the two-hour mark, however, guests had the option to leave the plane and enter the Stewart airport, according to the airline.

Shortly after midnight, competitor JetBlue, which has facilities at Stewart, arranged for passengers to board buses to Kennedy airport.

"After reviewing the particular circumstances of this diversion, we agreed that we needed to have done a better job with communicating a difficult situation to our guests," Virgin America said.

Virgin America CEO David Cush called Martin to apologize, promising a full refund and $100 credit to all passengers.

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