Last Thursday, Aeromexico Flight 622 from Guadalajara was detained for roughly four hours on the tarmac at Oakland International Airport. During that time, two passengers were arrested, and others called 911, claiming they were being held against their will, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
“We have someone on this flight who’s passed out. We haven’t been let off this flight for over four hours and they’re not doing anything,” a woman said in a 911 call. “Somebody passed out in the back and there’s another one right by the emergency exit who’s panicking and hyperventilating.”
The flight was scheduled to land at San Francisco International Airport but was averted due to fog and arrived at Oakland at about 10:30 am, airport spokesperson Keonnis Taylor said. Passengers claim they sat for hours without food, water or air conditioning. They reportedly spent their time looking for snacks in their carry-on luggage for snacks, while others screamed and cried. The crew feared the passengers would attempt to force their way off the plane.
The two passengers that were arrested had attempted to open the emergency door exit. They were accused of interfering with an aircraft and flight crew but were eventually released without charges. Another passenger, who had difficulty breathing, was given oxygen and transported to an area hospital.
Danny Caldron of Stockton, California, one of the two passengers arrested, said, “There was another passenger behind me that passed out, and then someone called 911 and said there are passengers here who are in distress. I did not at any time threaten any employee on the plane. I did go up front a couple times to ask what was going on, but I never threatened anybody.”
Four hours after landing, the passengers were allowed to head to the terminal. According to officials at Oakland International Airport, it is up to the airline to decide if they await clearance and resume their flight, or if they allow passengers to deplane.
Aeromexico contradicted this report, saying that they have no operators in Oakland and needed authorization from airport authorities to release the passengers. Oakland officials said the pilot didn’t request authorization to release the passengers until 2 pm. Customs and Border Protection approved the request just half an hour after that, according to CBS.
“There’s a lot of things that went wrong,” aviation expert Michael McCarron told NBC Bay Area. “The airline should have done a lot better job of communicating with the crew.”
Keeping passengers aboard a plane for four hours may violate federal laws that protect passengers’ rights, according to the Mercury News. Aeromexico could face hefty fines if it is revealed that the airline violated federal rules. “With 182 passengers on board and fines of up to $27,000 per stranded passenger, Aeromexico could face almost $5 million in fines if found to have violated the rules,” according to the Mercury News.
“It was hard to breathe,” said Jaime Quirarte, a passenger on the flight. “But also we started feeling really weak.” He added that the pilot was “completely incompetent.”
“His tone was ‘I’ve already told you this four times, I’m not going to say it again. No one is getting off the plane, no one is getting on the plane,’” said Erin Morgan, Quirarte’s wife.