August 1, 2017 12:12 pm
Updated: August 1, 2017 7:39 pm

Passengers stuck on ‘nightmare’ Air Transat plane for hours without air conditioning, food

ABOVE: Passengers aboard two Air Transat flights stuck at the Ottawa International Airport resorted to calling 911 after spending hours on the tarmac.


Passengers aboard two Air Transat flights had a gruelling delay on a tarmac Monday after their flights heading to Montreal were diverted to Ottawa due to severe weather.

The planes were stuck on the tarmac for so long that passengers called 911.

READ MORE: Stuck on the tarmac for hours? Rules and tips for airline passengers

“It was a nightmare,” passenger Maryanne Zéhil said. “There were children crying … some people had panic attacks and screamed ‘I need to get out!'”

WATCH: Hot, tired, and with little food, some passengers actually called 911. Why did it happen? 

The first — Flight 157 from Brussels — was scheduled to arrive in Montreal around 3:15 p.m. ET Monday but instead flew to Ottawa because of a storm.

The flight landed at the Ottawa airport around 5 p.m. ET, after more than eight hours of flying time. It sat on the tarmac for six hours and passengers were not able to get off the plane.

READ MORE: Passengers upset after spending 12 hours on tarmac before 16-hour flight

Zéhil said at first the air conditioning was on, but later it was turned off. There wasn’t any more food and slowly they ran out of water.

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She said although the flight attendants were “very helpful” she decided to go talk to the pilots and asked them if they could get off the plane.

“They kept saying ‘we cannot do anything, we have to wait,'” she said. The pilots were waiting for an opportunity to refuel before leaving Ottawa.

“We all wanted to open the door. I  had a dog, who was 15 hours without water and I was panicking.”

One passenger called 911 to notify emergency crews about the situation. They arrived and gave out water bottles, she said.

At that time, the passengers had been on the plane for about 15 hours.

WATCH: 2 pilots on Air Transat to Toronto arrested for allegedly being drunk before flight

The flight finally left Ottawa at about 11 p.m. ET and landed in Montreal at about 11:30 p.m. ET.

“It was inhumane and unacceptable,” Zéhil said. “We felt as if we were taken a hostage and didn’t feel secure on the plane anymore. When police came …. that’s when we felt secure.”

Debbie Cabana, marketing director with Air Transat, said many flights had to be diverted to the Ottawa airport because of the thunderstorms and the situation was beyond their control.

READ MORE: How to survive flight delays and cancellations without losing your mind

“As a result, Ottawa airport staff were unable to provide with loading bridges or stairs that would have enabled the passengers on the Brussels flight to disembark or our ground crews to replenish the aircraft’s empty drinking water reservoir,” she said in an email.

She added the shortage of fuel on the plane also explained the lack of air conditioning for a time.

In a statement released Monday, Ottawa airport officials said they did have a Customer Care Program — a program that provides planes with a supply of water, food, diapers and other personal hygiene as necessary — but its services were not requested.

“Although our staff tried several times to contact the aircrew through the handlers to provide further assistance, the air crew was non-communicative and did not take us up on our offers to assist further,” the statement read.



Flight from Rome also delayed

Air Transat Flight 507 headed from Rome to Montreal was also diverted to Ottawa due to the weather.

After nine hours and 45 minutes flying from Rome, the plane was supposed to land in Montreal at around 4:30 p.m. ET Monday. It was diverted to Ottawa and sat on the tarmac for hours.

READ MORE: 5 Calgary minors on their own in Mexico after 2-day Air Transat delay: parents

It finally landed at the Montreal airport at 10:30 p.m. ET, more than five hours later.

How long can a flight sit on a tarmac?

According to Nikola Berube, Alberta Motor Association travel director of sales and service, when it comes to delays most Canadian airlines will:

  • Keep you updated throughout the delay, as much as possible.
  • Serve drinks and snacks when it is safe to do so.
  • Allow you to disembark to a departure lounge if the delay exceeds 90 minutes and if it is safe and practical to do so.

However, there is no law that says airlines have to serve food and water.

WATCH: Rules and tips for airline passengers stuck on the tarmac

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, is passengers feel they have not been treated well they can file a complaint. The agency will then try and resolve the dispute.

Have to provide food, water in U.S.

“There’s nothing regulated in Canada,” Berube said. “There are regulations in the U.S that do specify that you need to provide water and snacks if delayed four to six hours.”

In the U.S., West Jet says it will offer passengers notifications every 30 minutes that you have the opportunity to leave the plane “if the opportunity to disembark actually exists.” West Jet will also provide access to medical attention and food and water after two hours.

READ MORE: Flight delays: What are your rights as a passenger?

Air Canada will not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac at a U.S. airport for more than four hours. Prior to reaching four hours, Air Canada will return the aircraft to the gate or another suitable disembarkation point, where passengers will be allowed to deplane.

Global News reached out to the Ottawa International Airport for comment but has not heard back.

— With files from Global News’ Emily Mertz

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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