By Reg Chapman

By Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For some airline passengers, the ice added an extra day to their travel plans. When pilots of a Delta Air Lines plane realized how icy it was in the Twin Cities, they re-routed to Duluth.

Those weary travelers were in pretty good spirits considering all they had been through.

For most, spending 16 hours in the Duluth airport was the worst part. No food, no water and no one around to let them know how and when they would get home.

“It’s been over 30 hours for us, 30 hours,” said tired airline passenger Julie.

Julie never thought it would take her and her three sons that long to fly home to Minnesota from the Bahamas.

“I’m so tired. I really don’t even know what day it is, to be honest with you,” said confused airline passenger Heather.

Heather said it shouldn’t have taken her this long to get home from Palm Beach.

They were both on the same flight that left Atlanta and was scheduled to land at Minneapolis-St. Paul International at 11:30 Saturday night.

“We’re coming over 35W and all of a sudden I see what must have been a big accident on 35W last night and we’re seconds from landing and we were the first plane they said ‘Nope were not going to let them land.’ And all of sudden we just sped up and kind of scared everybody on the plane,” said passenger Art Hennington.

Hennington said many on board knew weather was an issue.

What they didn’t know is they would spend the next 16 hours at the Duluth Airport.

“We stayed on the tarmac for two hours up there watching the movie ‘Salt,'” Hennington said.

He said then all 130 passengers were marched into a cold and dark terminal.

“Nobody’s there. Nobody knows what they’re supposed to do. They’re not going to pay for hotel rooms,” said Hennington.

“They were supposed to come in with food and water but that never happened,” said Heather.

These passengers say no one from the airline was there to answer their questions. Some paid for a hotel room but most slept on the floor inside the terminal.

“The next day we think we’re going to be the first one out because we have all these people. Well we find out the crew has to have a 10-hour wait, so now we have to wait until 12 o’clock,” said Hennington.

Four hours later they finally landed in Minneapolis.

“People were really good through I’m surprised there wasn’t any fighting. No one was too upset about missing the game and just kind of all hung out there. We’re just Minnesota nice,” Heather said.

Delta Air Lines says the original re-routing of the plane was done to refuel it. When the plane got to Duluth, the weather was so bad airline officials said safety was the priority and they grounded the flight.

Everyone on board the flight was offered a $100 voucher for the next time they fly Delta.

Comments (4)
  1. Carl says:

    Please check the facts of this story, if some found flights out of the Duluth
    Airport instead of waiting there must have people to talk too and there must have been concessions available for water and etc. Did anyone try calling 1-800-Delta?.

  2. Geoff says:

    I was on Sun Country’s Los Angeles flight.
    We were diverted to Rochester.
    The flight crew took great care of us –
    . We were given free food and free drinks.
    The CEO even came down from Minneapolis to make sure all was ok.

    1. Jan says:

      You were NOT there Carl. I called Delta before even leaving the plane in Duluth. There was NO flights leaving until 12 noon on Sunday so I was told. I found out latter that a flight had opened up at 5 AM. We were NOT told this. Only a select few passengers found this out. All that the Duluth airport crew stated was to call the 800 number. I had done that and was told nothing would leave until 12 noon. Duluth peronnel should have been more forthcoming about flights. We stood in line for a long time and not once were we told a flight had opened up. The pilot informed us before leaving the plane that we would be taken care of. This did NOT happen. We were given no direction and the Duluth crew handled this crisis horribly. We slept on the floor in a cold airport with no food or water available to us. We were lied to from the beginning. We flew in to see one of our daughter’s last college concerts. We missed this concert. We could have made it if we knew of the 5:00 AM flight. Hertz car rental decided to take advantage of the situation and overchage us for a car rental. They were going to charge us $500 to rent a car for one day that night. We were going to return the car on Monday. Budget car rental was going to charge us $54 the following day, however, the weather was still so bad. Hertz used a bad situation to take advantage of potential customers. One of the hardest parts of this nightmare was the poor communication by all Dutluth employees and Delta airlines. So CARL, get your facts straight!

  3. J says:

    Jan is right. Once landing in Duluth, we were provided little information on what to expect. We sat on the plane for around three hours before finally getting off. The captain assured us we would be ‘taken care of’ and provided further instruction once inside the airport.

    Once inside, we were not greeted by anyone from Delta. Imagine 140 passengers walking around aimlessly, in an essentially abandoned airport, unsure of what was going on. After a while, an announcement was made; the announcement advised us of several things: 1) Hotel arrangements were not being made for us, 2) If we wanted to re-book a Delta flight from Duluth, we would need to do so by contacting Delta at their 1-800 number, and 3) Water and granola bars would be given to us (not meals).

    I feel that Delta should have put us up in a hotel for the evening, given the poor, cold conditions inside the airport. I feel that Delta should have made immediate, alternative travel arrangements, such as a bus to Minneapolis, or minimally, re-booked our flights for us. I feel that Delta should have provided us a meal and drinks.

    Some of us re-booked flights for early the next morning, and others for the afternoon due to the morning flight being booked. Regardless, we all spent the night sleeping on the cold floors of the airport, without pillows or blankets. No food or water was provided to us. Very limited information was given to us about what to expect the following day.

    The 5:15 am flight scheduled for departure the following morning did not board until late-morning, to our surprise. As a matter of fact, TSA agents were not even at the gate until after the boarding time. Once on board, we were asked to get off due to weight restrictions. We were re-booked on the noon flight. Noon came around, and the plane had not even pulled into the gate. We waited several more hours (again, with NO communication by Delta as to what was going on), and then was finally told they had to de-ice the plane, and that it would board shortly. Another hour, and we finally boarded. The plane had still yet to be de-iced, so we waited a long time on board for that to occur.

    This was, no doubt, the flight from hell. I am not so much upset at the fact that we diverted to Duluth for the night, because I understand weather conditions are unpredictable, and it was deemed unsafe for us to land in Minneapolis. What outraged me, however, was the lack of effort on Delta’s part to keep us satisfied while waiting at the Duluth airport. Again, we had to initiate our own re-booking, no food or drinks were provided to us, there was nowhere to sleep except the cold, cement floor, and there was a major lack of communication the entire time. None of the flights scheduled to depart Duluth the following day left on time; they were all severely delayed or canceled; again, with no communication. Honestly, I am surprised a riot did not break out with how ornery and flustered EVERYONE was. Just ask them.

    Delta needs to seriously re-evaluate their customer care procedures for future, similar incidents, otherwise the company can expect nasty publicity and a lack of return customers. Truly, I was shocked at the poor service provided by such a big company.

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