Travellers who landed in Bermuda after their flight from Miami to London had to be diverted because of a possible mechanical problem say they have been “abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic” as they wait 20 hours for another flight.
American Airlines Flight AA38 had to change course about three hours after taking off from Miami International Airport on Monday due to “a possible mechanical issue”, landing on the British island territory in the North Atlantic.
The carrier has apologised for the disruption, but the Boeing 777-300’s 303 passengers have since waited more than 15 hours in LF Wade International Airport in St George’s.
They are scheduled to board a replacement flight to London Heathrow at 8pm local time, almost 20 hours after landing there.
The flight was unable to continue because of the US Federal Aviation Administration's crew rest requirements after maintenance teams had inspected the aircraft.
And passengers are not allowed to leave the airport because of Bermuda’s Covid-19 requirements.
Passengers said it took almost 10 hours for them to be given food at the airport, and there were only eight toilets available and no showers.
Jonathan Lo, 35, musical director at Northern Ballet, was on the flight on his way home to the UK with his fiancee Laura Day, 29, the principal character artist at the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
On the final leg of an “epic trip” in which Mr Lo proposed in Cape Town, South Africa, the couple — who live between London and Birmingham — were “dozing off” when the captain told passengers there was “an indication of overheating electronics”.
“A little later on it was backed up by a further announcement to say that, actually, they could smell smoke in the aircraft cockpit,” he told PA.
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Mr Lo said when they landed in Bermuda there was “quite a dramatic scene” with fire engines following the aircraft, but he understood this to be standard procedure and a precaution.
“All was going quite smoothly until we got into the terminal,” he said.
Mr Lo said passengers waited for more than three hours until their first update on the situation.
At 5am it became clear that they would be sleeping at the airport — when airport staff gave them blankets and pillows taken from the aircraft.
Mr Lo said “tempers rose” at times among the travellers, who included people travelling for work and many British families returning after the bank holiday weekend.
The hundreds stranded in the hall were not given food until airport staff offered breakfast at 12.30pm local time.
“That’s a whole whopping 10 hours after people have landed with children and were really hungry,” Mr Lo said.
“[We feel] abandoned by the airline, really, literally in the middle of the Atlantic.
“When we landed, we didn’t know how long it was going to be … had we been kept updated regularly, we would have been able to make plans and I’m sure the airport staff would have been able to make plans quicker.
“I was speaking to a gentleman earlier, who basically said, ‘Well I’m going to miss my appointment in London anyway, can I just turn around and go back?'”
Mr Lo said he would miss his ballet company’s first day of rehearsals on Tuesday, while Ms Day was supposed to start her season teaching the Birmingham Royal Ballet, for which she has been practising while stranded in the airport.
He had also planned to meet Ms Day’s parents in London to celebrate their engagement.
“We only have the window of the next four days, because of our travelling schedule … when we actually get to share the news,” Mr Lo said.
“They know of course, but to actually get to speak to them properly about plans and everything before they go to Australia – it’s all a bit frustrating.”
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Danny Wells, 32, an IT engineer from Hertfordshire, was on his way back from a holiday in Miami when he was caught in the disruption.
“We have had to take an extra two days' holiday from work as we were due to work this morning but will not be able to work tomorrow either,” Mr Wells told PA.
“We have family house sitting and both have now had to take the day off tomorrow as well as they are looking after animals.
“[There are] rows of people asleep on the floor, the lights have been on almost all night. Everyone is freezing because the air con is on so they had to get everyone’s blanket from the plane.”
American Airlines said: “American Airlines flight 38, from Miami to London, diverted to Bermuda this morning after a possible mechanical issue.
“We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we apologise for the trouble this has caused.”