For those who recall this unfortunate incident happening last winter, or worse yet were actually on this flight, here’s an update.
It would appear there is a gap in the regulations regarding such events and a lot of finger pointing too.
OK to leave passengers stranded, law says
Plane stuck on Ottawa tarmac for 12 hours
Jack Branswell and Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, November 03, 2008
OTTAWA – Passengers who spent 12 hours last March on the tarmac of an Ottawa airport with no food, water or toilets have inadvertently exposed a regulatory black hole in Canada’s aviation system, documents obtained by Canwest News Service show.
“There is indeed no law or regulation that requires passengers to be deplaned,” say Transport Canada briefing notes obtained through access to information. “There is a gap.”
“Currently, if an airline or its ground handlers don’t intervene, nobody appears to be responsible for an aircraft full of passengers on the ground. What if there is a crisis, e.g. sickness, terrorists?” the notes ask.
Transport Canada has been studying the case of two Cubana flights that were stranded on the tarmac at Ottawa airport to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The flights last March 8 were headed to Montreal but redirected to Ottawa because of a snow storm, which was also hitting the nation’s capital.
But a combination of the storm, Cubana having no relationship with local baggage handling companies and lightning meant the 300-plus passengers sat for 12 hours within eyesight of a gate.
They were eventually bused back to Montreal, but not before spending about another eight hours in the Ottawa airport.
Passengers who were on the flights were irate. In letters sent to the government, people referred to the ordeal as a “surreal mess,” and said they were being “held hostage by other Canadian citizens and bureaucrats.”
Transport Canada said it is still looking into the case and the lack of regulations to deal with similar situations. But the documents note it is: “far from certain anything could have saved [the] situation on that particular night, the night from hell.”
It noted there was only one ground crew working at the time.
It also said there were problems between Cubana and the Ottawa Airport Authority.
“The lack of communication and some miscommunication, that night was a particular concern. Things could have been ‘less bad’ with communication.”
Cubana has not returned repeated phones calls over the issue, but its general manager for Canada, Ramon Valdivia, wrote to Transport Canada after the incident. “We consider that even taking the exceptional circumstances into account, this situation is highly irregular,” he wrote while asking for an official inquiry into the matter.
Krista Kealey, Ottawa Airport Authority spokeswoman, said the airport tried to help Cubana. It found a ground crew, brought in cots to the terminal and arranged for the buses back to Montreal. “We agree that airlines leaving passengers on airplanes for that long is unacceptable,” she said. “Unfortunately, in a situation like that the relationship is between the airline and the passengers.”
She said no water or food was brought to the plane because they didn’t ask for it. “We had no contact from them at all.”
© The Vancouver Sun 2008