Anyone taking the nearly eight-hour flight from Chicago to London needs to expect some level of discomfort — but not this much.
The 176 passengers reportedly found uncomfortable conditions at the base, including small beds and inadequate blankets or heating. One passenger, Bob Chappell, told NBC News that he and his wife “froze through the night because there wasn’t any heat.” CNN reported Friday night was the coldest of the month in the area, with temperatures in the 30s. In the morning, still with no word from United, the passengers were fed breakfast by the military staff and also given lunch later.
When the new plane finally arrived and the group returned to the airport, they found an added insult to inconvenience: The flight crew had apparently spent the night in a hotel. Passenger Sallie Coventry tweeted this picture of the crew, along with a jab at United for their unfair accommodations of the passengers.
A tweet from United’s verified account suggested that the crew did in fact have a more comfortable night: “The crew must rest in order to continue the flight. You can rest on board the aircraft knowing that they are in charge.”
CNN reported that there were four hotels and three bed and breakfasts in town, though it’s unclear whether there were enough open rooms to accommodate all passengers. In a statement provided to NBC News, United said the plane had been diverted because of a “maintenance issue,” that the passengers had been housed overnight in the barracks because “hotel space was not available” and that the airline had provided the passengers with meals during the overnight diversion.
Many outraged travelers voiced their displeasure on Twitter, some of them hearing back from the United account.
Lois Harper, one of the stranded passengers, shared the same main complaint with many other passengers, telling CNN United was uncommunicative and that no one knew how long their delay would last. She said it wasn’t until after buses took the group back to the airport that they got in touch with anyone from the airline. “That’s when it hit us that there was no one from United Airlines there to represent their company and to inform us of really what we were going to expect next,” Harper told CNN. “That was the biggest disappointment of all.”
Ultimately, everyone took a new plane into Newark and then went on to London, NBC reported. The passengers finally arrived at their destination Sunday, 48 hours after first leaving Chicago.
United spokeswoman Mary Ryan told the Chicago Sun-Times in an e-mail that the airline apologizes for the disruption and that all passengers’ tickets would be refunded.
All the same, at least one passenger is probably still peeved at United. Passenger Larry Gartee told NBC the whole thing “wouldn’t have been so bad, but they lost my bags, too.”