SAN FRANCISCO – Hundreds of air travelers landed in San Francisco, safe but irritated after a 28-hour overseas flight they say included 12 hours on a tarmac in the Middle East without food or accurate flight information.
Tempers grew short on Etihad Airways Flight 183 when fog in the city of Abu Dhabi delayed takeoff for a half-day, passengers told San Francisco broadcaster KGO.
"They kept telling us that we were going to leave, you know 15 minutes from now, 20 minutes from now, 30 minutes for now, for 12 hours," passenger Thomas Piani told reporters in San Francisco after finally landing in the city on Saturday evening.
Passengers said the flight crew told them the Abu Dhabi airport was too crowded with other stranded flights to allow them to get off the plane to wait.
"Everybody was fighting with each other, and the flight attendants were fighting with us, and we were fighting with the flight attendants," passenger Venkatesh Pahwa said.
Etihad, a national airline of the United Arab Emirates, which includes Abu Dhabi, apologized for travelers' inconvenience, saying the problem was largely beyond its control and it affected other airlines as well.
The airline told The Associated Press in a statement that "unprecedented fog" had delayed flights, caused airport congestion and Flight 183 was one of the planes most affected.
"The passengers remained on the aircraft as all efforts were being made to secure a new departure time. The delay was then compounded by the requirement to replace the aircraft's ultra-long haul operating crew who had exceeded their flight time limitations," the airline said.
Flight attendants eventually passed out sandwiches and water after some people made a fuss over the lack of food, passenger Ravali Reddy said.
"No one was angry about the delay itself. If it's unsafe to fly, we don't want to fly," she said. "It just didn't seem to make any logical sense why we had to stay on the plane."