United Airlines flight, diverted to Kenai, safely landed in Anchorage

Andrew Spicher, of New York, messes around on his computer as he and several Alyeska-bound friends wait to leave the Kenai Municipal Airport Saturday March 15, 2014 in Kenai, Alaska.

A United Airlines flight that was diverted to the Kenai Municipal Airport Friday evening safely landed at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage Saturday afternoon.

 

More than 100 passengers were stranded in Kenai, many sleeping on the floor of the airport, after a weather diversion and several subsequent issues caused the flight — inbound from Chicago — stay in Kenai for about 18 hours. 

Passengers on the flight spoke of misinformation, frustration and delays as they waited to find out how they would get to their destination. 

"They kept telling us one hour, then another hour, then another hour," said passenger Nikki Velazquez. 

None of the passengers were allowed to leave the plane for the first four hours as it sat on the tarmac in Kenai. 

Then, while on the tarmac, the pilot reached his quota for working hours, as designated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the flight had to be further delayed until he was legally able to work again. 

According to FAA regulations, the maximum flight time for a pilot during a working day is nine hours, followed by a mandatory 10-hour uninterrupted rest period. 

Passenger Steve Read said by the time everyone was let off the plane, the toilets had begun to back up. 

Once inside the airport the pilots "kind of snuck out the back," Read said. 

He said he watched one of the pilots decline to make an announcement that he was leaving the premises or provide any information about a future takeoff time.

The last announcements made by United were that transportation and hotel accommodations would be made available for travelers, Read said. 

United Airlines Director of Corporate Communications Christen David said the airline does not have regular service to the Kenai Airport, therefore several of its normal policies and procedures would have been difficult to follow.

"We don't have staff there," she said. 


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