Passengers Call 911 After Being Forced to Stay in Plane With No AC for 6 Hours

Passengers fan themselves as medical staff come on board the Air Transat plane that was on a tarmac in Ottowa, Canada for over 5 hours.
Passengers fan themselves as medical staff come on board the Air Transat plane that was on a tarmac in Ottowa, Canada for over 5 hours.Brice de Schietere / @BriceBxl via Twitter

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By Amanda Proença Santos

Passengers called 911 on Monday after not being allowed to exit an airplane that was delayed on the tarmac for six hours.

Severe weather forced the Air Transat flight from Brussels, Belgium, to be diverted from Montreal to Ottawa International Airport, where it landed along with several other diverted flights. Four hours later, the airport said in a statement that it started receiving 911 calls from passengers who claimed they were still aboard, being forced to remain on an aircraft with no air conditioning and little water.

It would be another two hours before the flight would depart for Montreal, according to the airport's statement.

"You can’t keep over 300 people in a plane with no AC, running out of food, running out of water. You can’t just do that when it’s hot. It’s just not right," passenger Laura Mah told NBC affiliate WWBT.

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Videos recorded by passengers aboard captured their six-hour battle to leave the stuffy aircraft, which at one point went completely dark.

The cause of the holdup remains unclear, as the airline and the airport have issued conflicting statements about the event.

As angry passengers still trapped inside the plane tweeted furiously to be let out, both the airline and the airport assigned blame to each other.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Air Transat said the nearly 30 flights diverted to Ottawa International Airport due to the weather caused an unexpected spike of air traffic, which meant the airport was unable to give the flight crew the green light to deplane or to refill the airplane's empty drinking water reservoir.

The airport's statement said 20 flights, 15 of which were from international destinations, with a total of almost 5,000 passengers were diverted to Ottawa International Airport.

When airport emergency services entered the Air Transat plane after 911 was called, they said they handed out bottled water to passengers and treated one who felt ill. Airport personnel also offered to provide further assistance, which they claim the airline refused, according to the airport's statement.

"We had a gate available and air stairs ready in the event that the airline decided to deplane," the airport said. "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."

"The responsibility for deciding whether a flight is deplaned and processed through Canada Customs rests entirely with the airline," the statement added. "We are disappointed that Air Transat has not been forthcoming, transparent or accountable with information concerning their diverted flights."

The airline, on the other hand, insisted that it was not the one to blame.

"Ottawa's version of events is not consistent with ours," Air Transat wrote later on Twitter. "We will continue our investigation and come back with the facts as soon as possible. In any case, our passengers experienced genuine discomfort for which we are sincerely sorry."