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The Federal Department of Transportation on Monday launched an investigation into the lengthy tarmac delays reported by Jet Blue in Hartford over the weekend.
Some of the delays lasted seven hours or more. An American Airlines international flight also experienced a seven-plus hour delay, but it's not clear at this time if an investigation has been opened into AA's delay, which stemmed in large part from there being no U.S. Customs and Immigration officials on-hand to meet the plane.
The flights were all delayed after a massive snow storm moved through the northeast over the weekend, dropping nearly three feet of snow in places. Several New York City-area airports also reported problems with the instrumentation that allows planes to land in low visibility.
The most well-chronicled delay was a Jet Blue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Newark, N.J. It was diverted to Hartford's Bradley airport where passengers and the pilot tried to get the passengers off the plane.
Chris Keating, a reporter for the Hartford Courant, said the plane was ultimately off-loaded by police officers and firefighters, after the pilot sought medical attention for a paraplegic and diabetic on the flight who began to suffer medical complications.
But why the plane wasn't offloaded that way — with passengers walking down steps to the tarmac and into the terminal — remains unanswered.
"We never got a good explanation for that. I do know there were constant announcements, basically every hour on the plane, that they were only there to refuel," Keating said. "But it kept getting delayed more and more and more."
Under DOT regulations implemented in 2010, airlines can face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger for any domestic flight that is held on the tarmac longer than three hours. For international flights, there's a four-hour limit.
Keating said that while Bradley was certainly overwhelmed by the number of diversions it received, 23, it has a large terminal that should should have been able to handle the passengers.
Passengers on the Jet Blue flight from Fort Lauderdale said the plane ran out of food, water and the toilets even stopped working.
Jet Blue has apologized to passengers and issued refunds to passengers. The airline did not, however, offer housing or meal assistance to those who were stuck in Connecticut.
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