Flight 662 backstory: Why Aeromexico took nearly five hours to release passengers from plane at Oakland airport

OAKLAND — It turns out, the Aeromexico flight from hell that languished on the Oakland airport tarmac for nearly five hours Thursday as sweaty passengers fainted, cried and screamed for help, could have been avoided.

After Flight 662 was diverted to Oakland from San Francisco because of fog, Oakland International Airport officials quickly offered a gate for the plane to park, but the flight crew turned it down. The pilot told airport officials he planned to keep people aboard, quickly refuel and fly to SFO so the plane could make its return flight to Guadalajara later that afternoon, according to a source familiar with the incident.

The plan backfired — big time.

The Boeing 737 wound up parked on the tarmac for nearly five hours — potentially violating federal passenger rights laws — with conditions inside rapidly deteriorating. With no air conditioning, water or food, passengers cooled each other with magazines, cried, screamed and ate whatever they could find in carry-on bags. As the hours wore on, some phoned 911, passenger advocates, and friends and family desperate to get off the aircraft. Two men were detained after becoming “unruly,” one woman wearing an oxygen mask was helped off the plane, and at least four passengers requested medical aid once they made it off the plane, the source said.

Aeromexico officials and Oakland airport officials did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

Air traffic control discussions with the Aeromexico pilot, reviewed by Bay Area News Group, indicate the flight crew requested help from local authorities about 1:44 p.m. Thursday, saying angry passengers were forming groups and accusing the pilot of lying to them.

“The passengers are real upset because two hours ago they said that we’re lying to them — that the San Francisco (airport) was never closed,” the pilot explained at the start of a two-minute rant to an air traffic controller.

The pilot explained that two passengers had threatened the crew.

“One in special, that he’s gonna do something if in 10 minutes we do not move the plane,” the pilot said. “He was going to do, I don’t know what and he was going to open doors and just threatened the life of the cabin crew.”

He explained how he told passengers four times how he could not open the doors because it would violate regulations.

“But they don’t believe. They said that I’m lying. This guy said that I’m lying to them and he’s making groups in here. So we have a lot of things going on in here,” the pilot said.

The controller said deputies were listening to his requests.

“I really appreciate your help because this is making it worse and worse and worse,” the pilot said.

The incident started with the low fog at San Francisco International Airport earlier Thursday morning. Around 10:15 a.m., a controller working to line up planes at SFO asked the Aeromexico flight about its minimum runway visual range and was told by the pilot that it was 1,800 feet. The fog had dropped visibility down to 1,200 feet and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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