Hundreds of air travelers landed in San Francisco Saturday evening, safe but irritated after a 28-hour overseas flight they say included 12 hours on a tarmac in the Middle East without adequate food or accurate flight information.
Tempers grew short on Etihad Airlines Flight 183 when fog in the city of Abu Dhabi delayed takeoff for a half-day, prompting some angry passengers to tweet about being stranded on the plane.
“Hey @EtihadAirways, I've been sitting on EY 183 in Abu Dhabi for 10 hours now. THIS IS NOT OK. There are kids and seniors on this flight,” tweeted Ravali Reddy, comparing the whole thing to an episode out of Seinfeld.
Reddy told NBC Bay Area that when passengers boarded the plane in Abu Dhabi, they were originally told there was a half an hour delay.
Passengers stranded on Etihad Airways Flight 138 talk to members of the cabin crew. Photo: Rithvik Reddy
“I went off to sleep and when I woke up after a couple of hours I realized we still hadn’t moved,” she said. “We were constantly told that we would be departing within 30 to 45 minutes. Eventually we found out that the entire airport was closed.”
Reddy said the most frustrating thing for passengers was the lack of active communication from Etihad. “It didn't make any logical sense why we couldn't get off the airplane,” she said. “At no point were we told what was going on."
"No one expects @EtihadAirways to fly in bad weather. But let the passengers off the plane and/or provide food and water!!" tweeted another passenger, @SuzeTwtr.
"Worst experience flying @EtihadAirways #EY183 to SFO. all 5 checked in bags delayed to top off the worst ever service from Abu Dhabi," tweeted Navin Verma, who was bringing his wife to the U.S. for the first time.
Some called it a “flight from hell.” Passengers tweeted that the plane was without water for a while.
"A horrible experience with flight EY183 from Abu Dhabi to SFO on 3 Jan. 28 hr flight with 1 meal and missing baggage," tweeted Abhishek Latthe.
“We were given food during our 12-hour stay on the tarmac, but only after many passengers complained,” Reddy said. “At no point were we served a full meal. We were constantly told they were not allowed to start food service, and once a big enough fuss was made, they came around and gave cold sandwiches, muffins and Kit-Kat bars.”
Passengers flying to other destinations around the world also took to social media to complain about the flight delays, some vowing never to fly on Etihad again.
Etihad, a national airline of the United Arab Emirates, which includes Abu Dhabi, said in a statement on its website that fog had delayed flights and caused airport congestion:
"Today in Abu Dhabi we have experienced extraordinary weather conditions which have caused severe disruption to our flights. Etihad Airways is working around the clock to restore flight schedules and to ensure that guests can travel as soon as possible. Normal change or cancellation fees will be waived."
The airline apologized for travelers' inconvenience but said the delays were beyond its control.
Etihad spokespeople did not immediately respond to an after-hours request from The Associated Press for passengers' complaints about conditions onboard during the wait on the tarmac.
Etihad representatives were responding to individual complaints from the official Etihad Airways Twitter account.
"The thing that we care about the most is that this doesn't happen to anyone again — it shouldn't be something airlines can get away with," Reddy said.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.
We apologise for the serious inconvenience that these events have caused, which have been beyond our control. 8/8 — Etihad Airways (@EtihadAirways) January 4, 2015