United Airlines Flight 179 from Newark, New Jersey, to Hong Kong was diverted to Goose Bay Airport in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday due to a medical emergency, leaving passengers stranded for 14 hours in subzero temperatures and with little food.
The 3:05 pm flight landed at Goose Bay Airport at 9:31 p.m. AST, where medical personnel were waiting to transport the passenger to a hospital. The flight was expected to resume but was grounded as a result of a mechanical issue with the door. Since the airport terminal lacked a customs officer on duty at night, passengers were forced to remain on the plane, a Boeing 777 250. According to United Airlines spokesperson Natalie Noonan, the door probably froze due to the freezing cold temperatures.
Goose Bay, a Canadian Forces Base, is used as an air force base by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The airfield at Goose Bay is also used by civilian aircraft, though Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at the airport are only equipped to handle general aviation aircraft with no more than 15 passengers.
Sonjay Dutt, a professional wrestler who was on his way to an event in China, tweeted that the open door and below -30 C weather made the wait endless. Other passengers criticized the airline’s lack of communication during the wait.
Cherie Martorana Neve wrote on Facebook that the situation had been grossly mishandled by United, adding that the treatment by most of the flight attendants had been “not only unprofessional, but downright disgusting.”
On Sunday morning, Goose Bay officials served donuts and coffee from Tim Hortons, a Canadian fast food restaurant. Meanwhile, a United spokesperson said that "the crew is doing everything possible to assist customers." After 14 hours, the passengers were allowed to leave the plane. A new pane was flown to Goose Bay to transport the passengers back to Newark. The rescue plane landed at Newark Airport at 6 pm on Sunday, nearly 27 hours after initially departing from the airport.
"We apologize to our customers and our crew is doing everything possible to assist them during the delay," United said.
United rebooked some passengers on flights to Hong Kong, while others received a letter stating that they would get a full refund and travel credit. Passengers were also given a hotel voucher for Sunday night as well as meal vouchers and a gift card.