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Passengers call 911 while trapped for six hours on plane

Posted at 3:53 AM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 03:53:24-04

MONTREAL, Quebec (CBC News/CNN) – Angry airline passengers called 911 after hundreds were stranded for hours on two planes in Ottawa, Canada.

Two Air Transat flights were diverted to the Ottawa airport Monday due to storm weather, and after landing, the planes sat on the tarmac with the passengers still onboard.

One flight from Brussels, Belgium, which was scheduled to arrive in Montreal at 3:15 p.m. ET, landed in Ottawa just after 5 p.m. ET, after more than eight hours of flying time.

The plane then sat on the tarmac for six hours. The passengers weren’t allowed to get off, even as the plane lost power and air conditioning, growing hot and stuffy.

“It got to the point where people started getting angry and were yelling at the flight attendants to open the doors,” passenger Laura Mah said.

Mah says the passengers were given little information about what was happening and why.

“You can’t keep over 300 people in a plane with no AC, running out of food, running out of water. You can’t just do that when it’s hot. It’s just not right,” Mah said.

After several hours, some passengers called 911 for help.

Emergency services and airport staff responded four hours into the wait with water bottles, and they helped people feeling ill from the heat.

The flight finally left Ottawa at about 11 p.m. ET and landed in Montreal half an hour later, eight hours behind schedule.

In total, Mah and the other passengers had been sitting on the plane for about 15 hours.

Another Air Transat flight, this one from Rome, Italy, to Montreal, sat on the Ottawa tarmac for four hours with passengers aboard after it was diverted. The plane finally took off and arrived at the Montreal airport five hours late.

By the time they arrived in Montreal, the passengers had been sitting on the plane for about 15 hours.

In an emailed statement, Air Transat said bad weather caused a backlog of traffic, and airport staff were unable to provide loading bridges or stairs to enable passengers to get off the plane.

The airport denies the airline's claim.

“The airport does not decide when an aircraft is deplaned. We don’t have that right. The airline owns the aircraft. The passengers are clients of the airline,” said Krista Kealey with the Ottawa International Airport Authority.

The Canadian government has plans to pass a new bill strengthening air passengers’ rights and creating clear standards for long delays on the tarmac, according to the Federal Transport Ministry.

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