Flight cancellations, rough landings, upchucking passengers: It was a rough day for the airlines and their customers Friday.
The nor’easter that pummeled the East Coast from Virginia to Maine made travel along the busy Northeast Corridor miserable. Thousands of flights were canceled. In New York, the East Coast’s primary transportation hub, many travelers were left stranded, with more than 1,000 flights canceled at Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports, according to FlightAware. In the Washington region, more than 300 flights were delayed or canceled at the three major airports.
The storm, which packed hurricane-strength wind gusts, was the cause of the aviation chaos. Some flights to the East Coast were diverted to airports west of the storm’s impact zone, but some planes still fought through the turbulent air to make it into their destinations. One flight into Washington’s Dulles International Airport was particularly miserable.
“Pretty much everyone on the plane threw up. Pilots were on the verge of throwing up,” reported the pilot of United Flight 3833, describing the final approach to Dulles.
The Friday morning flight from Charlottesville experienced moderate to severe turbulence around 4,000 feet, airport officials said.
United said the regional jet encountered such turbulence that a few customers became ill as the aircraft was preparing to land.
“The aircraft landed safely and taxied to its gate,” United said in a statement. “No customers required medical attention because of the turbulence.”
It wasn’t the only flight during which passengers became ill while descending. Passengers in some trans-Atlantic flights described moments of nausea aboard Dulles-bound flights.
“My entire flight threw up while trying to land in DC because of the Philly weather. Hell on earth,” tweeted a passenger whose flight from London was diverted from Philadelphia to Washington on Friday. And the passengers’ troubles didn’t end there, the Twitter user recounted in a thread that went viral.
Passengers were put on a bus to Philadelphia only to spend hours on the road, navigating road and bridge closures along Interstate 95.
“The bus smells like throw up. Morale is low I repeat morale is LOW,” Twitter user @Kilkenny___ said. “Ok but seriously the bridges are closed there are hundreds of cars parked on the side of the road with no idea where to go.”
Abby Maslin, a blogger based in Washington, said that her mother’s flight from Munich also had a rough arrival into Washington on Friday morning and that middle school students traveling on a flight threw up upon landing at Dulles.
“Rough day to be in the sky,” Maslin tweeted. “Thanks to all the incredible pilots who keep us safe every day.”
Later in the day, conditions got so bad that the Federal Aviation Administration issued temporary ground stops for arriving flights into Dulles. The air traffic control tower was evacuated from 11:55 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. because of high winds; some gusts exceeded 70 mph at the Northern Virginia airport.
It wasn’t until around 8 p.m. that winds calmed down, but even then, 50 mph gusts were common, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
By mid-morning Saturday, the winds were still blustery, but airport operations in the Washington area were returning to normal.