Passengers en route to Hong Kong shiver through 13-hour ordeal on Canadian tarmac

  • Plane had to make emergency landing in Newfoundland where it sat in the bitter cold
  • Passengers shivered under the thin blankets handed out by flight attendants
PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2019, 3:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2019, 8:41am

A medical emergency and a mechanical problem left passengers on a United Airlines flight stuck for more than 13 hours on the frigid tarmac of a Canadian airport in the plane’s barely heated interior, the CBC network reported.

United Flight 179 had taken off late Saturday from Newark, New Jersey en route to Hong Kong with some 250 passengers on board.

When a passenger suffered a medical emergency the plane made an emergency landing in Goose Bay airport in Newfoundland and Labrador province, on Canada’s east coast, the airline told CBC.

But after paramedics evacuated the passenger and took him to hospital, the plane was unable to take off -- reportedly because bitterly cold temperatures (-30 Celsius, or -22 Fahrenheit) had caused a door to freeze.

With no customs officers on duty overnight, passengers were forced to stay on board, many shivering under the thin blankets handed out by flight attendants.

With little communication about what was going on, and with food and water running short some 10 hours into the ordeal, officials finally arrived to deliver supplies from the Tim Hortons fast-food chain known in Canada for its coffee and doughnuts.

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A replacement plane arrived only after a 13-hour wait, passengers said.

One of them, Sonjay Dutt, reached by phone, said the plane was underheated and that the arrival of the food and coffee was not enough to appease increasingly angry passengers.

Much of eastern Canada, as well as the US northeast, has been suffering through a glacial cold spell, with heavy snowfalls that have led to scores of flight cancellations.

At the end of the United ordeal, passenger Dutt doubtless summed up the feeling of many when he tweeted that “it’s been a long long long long day.”