A Delta flight with nearly 200 people - including several celebrities - was delayed for 18 hours, leaving people sleeping on the airport floor

Delta Boeing 737 900AP
  • A Delta flight with 198 passengers was delayed for more than 18 hours Wednesday, many of which were spent on the tarmac.
  • The flight, from New York's JFK heading to Los Angeles, was originally scheduled to depart Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.. It didn't take off until Thursday at around 9:30 a.m.
  • Delta did not offer hotel rooms to passengers who were stranded overnight. Many of them ended up sleeping in chairs and on the airport floor.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Passengers on a Delta flight from New York's JFK Airport to Los Angeles faced extensive delays before the flight took off, 18 hours after it was originally scheduled.

Delta flight DL975 was due to depart New York at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It was initially delayed about an hour, pushing back from the gate at 4:27 p.m., according to data from FlightAware.

However, that initial delay led to a ripple effect of additional delays, and passengers said that poor communication and an absence of helpful assistance and amenities made the situation worse than it needed to be.

"It was so upsetting," Eloise Moran, a passenger on the flight, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Among the passengers were a number of celebrities, reportedly including Tina Knowles - Beyonce's mom - Dacre Montgomery, from the Netflix show "Stranger Things," and several cast members from the ABC program, "Dancing With The Stars."

Emma Slater, who performs on "Dancing With The Stars," tweeted a video showing livid passengers eight hours into the saga, as a Delta gate agent told them  they wouldn't get hotel rooms for the overnight delay.

 

"Disgraceful," she said. "@Delta telling the hundreds of passengers of flight 975 (after waiting on the tarmac for a total of 8 hours and having to get off the aircraft twice for a multitude of reasons including mechanical) that they won't provide hotels for us."

Passengers said they taxied for hours, ended up leaving the plane and re-boarding twice, and finally learning that the flight wouldn't leave until Thursday morning.

Numerous passengers on Twitter said that they were on the plane for four hours at one point, and spent a total of eight hours on the tarmac before the flight was delayed overnight.

"I live on this plane now," tweeted Matthew K. Begbie, who said he was on the flight. "I have forgotten what the world outside this plane is like. Babies have been born. People have died. The world turns on but flight 975 is forever."

delta air lines airportJeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Why passengers were told the delays kept piling up

According to Moran, a writer who lives in New York, passengers boarded on time, but the plane couldn't push back right away because of a mechanical issue with the cargo door.

"The mechanics ended up fixing it, the pilot said, but then there was bad weather predicted," she said.

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After it was fixed, she said, the plane taxied again before the pilot announced that they were being forced to change their planned routing due to weather issues. They also had to taxi to a different runway. Once they got there, flights were held due to a thunderstorm. Eventually, at around 8 p.m., the plane returned to the gate because one of the pilots reached his FAA-mandated maximum number of working hours before requiring a rest period, often known as "timing out."

Passengers had been on the plane for a total of four-and-a-half hours by that point, according to Moran. The Department of Transportation requires airlines to let passengers off the plane after three hours - Delta told Business Insider that it returned to the gate in time to meet this requirement.

Moran said that passengers were told the flight would leave at around 10:30 p.m. at this point. She said that Delta did not offer dinner vouchers, but most passengers that she could see went to find dinner at a terminal restaurant anyway.

By 10:30 p.m., passengers re-boarded the plane, taxied to the runway, waited in the queue for the runway - and then turned around again. The crew announced that one of the pilots had officially timed out.

The pilot told passengers that customer representatives would provide information and hotel vouchers back in the terminal, according to Moran, who says that never ended up happening. Passengers got off the plane, in what Moran described as "an angry mob," at around 1 a.m. Customer representatives offered food vouchers - although restaurants were all closed - but no hotel vouchers.

Moran, who spent the night in the terminal, said that she saw passengers, including children and elderly people, sleeping on the floor.

Finally, passengers got back on the plane at around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, before taking off.

delta ticket counter airportA Delta Air Lines ticket counter in Boston, Massachusetts.David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Delta's response to passengers

Moran said that she has been offered a $100 travel voucher and 5,000 Delta SkyMiles, worth a baseline of about $50. She originally paid $600 for her basic economy ticket to visit a friend for her birthday.

"As if I even want to travel with Delta again, after that," she said. "It's lost earnings, too, I could have worked yesterday if I knew the flight would be so delayed."

Read more: The FAA just banned a model of MacBook Pro from all flights - here's how to check if your laptop is included

Although Delta has the lowest rate of cancellations of any of the major US airlines, it has been criticized for delaying flights for unreasonable lengths of time to avoid cancelling them.

On Tuesday, the airline issued weather waivers that covered the New York region due to forecasted storms. Operations at JFK have been impacted repeatedly this summer due to frequent severe weather, as well as a repairs on one of its runways, which has been closed since April. Construction is expected to be completed by November.

In a statement, Delta apologized to customers:

"Delta apologizes to customers on flight 975 operating from New York-JFK to Los Angeles, which was delayed last night due to weather affecting the Northeast airspace. Customers were offered water and snacks, pillows and blankets in the terminal before the flight departed at approximately 10am for Los Angeles Thursday morning."

The airline also told Business Insider that it planned to offer passengers a gesture of goodwill to further apologize. It was not immediately clear whether that referred to the $100 voucher and 5,000 miles Moran was offered.

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