The airline that left passengers stranded on the Ottawa airport’s runway for hours last week says it tried its best to get them back in the air — but workers failed to give its two planes proper refuelling priority.
Air Transat is blaming “a confluence of factors beyond our control” for the lengthy delay of international Flights 157 and 507, both of which were diverted to the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport on July 31 due to bad weather in Montreal.
The airline’s defence is found in the legal response it filed last Friday to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which has announced it will hold an inquiry into what went wrong that night.
The agency made Air Transat’s response public Wednesday afternoon.
Hundreds of passengers were prevented from leaving the two planes after they touched down at around 5 p.m. in Ottawa last Monday.
One passenger, Laura Mah, told CBC News that food was being rationed, the cabin temperature was steadily rising, and people were being given almost no information about what was going on.
I’m sorry to hear that – it’s up to the airline to determine whether to deplane or wait it out when a flight diverts.
The situation became so desperate that at least two passengers called 911.
Air Transat’s timeline
Air Transat’s legal filing contains the airline’s own timeline of the events that transpired that day, starting at around 4 p.m. ET when crews were told that passing storms had closed the Montreal airport.
The two planes assumed a “standard holding pattern,” and were at one point mistakenly told that the Montreal airport had reopened, before touching down in Ottawa an hour later.
‘Both aircraft held on the runway with no ground support whatsoever for approximately 90 minutes.’
– Air Transat
Both planes were then told to park on one of the airport’s runways. At that time, about 20 to 30 other aircraft had already been diverted to Ottawa’s airport, Air Transat said.
The two planes shut down their main engines and switched to auxiliary power units to keep the lights on and onboard ventilation systems in operation. However, the high temperatures, plus the number of passengers on board, meant temperatures steadily rose to above 23 C, Air Transat said.
Crews tried to get permission to refuel while on the runway, the airline said, but their requests were turned down. There was also a “critically-high demand” for air stairs, which could have allowed passengers to leave the plane,…