An airport worker has come under fire for allegedly telling stranded Delta passengers that they should be grateful their plane didn’t “crash into the sea”.
Passengers on a Delta flight last Friday were left with no food or water and placed in a “partitioned section” of the airport after an emergency landing.
Flight 157 made an unexpected sharp turn to the isolated Terceira Island in the Azores archipelago, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about eight hours into the trip from Accra, Ghana to JFK in New York.
It is reported that the flight had to land on the Portugeuse island due to compromised oxygen levels on the plane.
The passengers on the flight suddenly found themselves on a remote island with no Delta staff at the airport to help them during this unexpected diversion.
Nana Asante-Smith, a passenger on the Delta flight, wrote on Facebook how her and her husband just had a trip of a lifetime to Ghana with 40 of their friends and family, something they had all planned for years.
However, on the flight back she said a pilot announced that the plane was being diverted due to a mechanical issue. Communication started to become confusing when a flight attendant told another passenger that they were diverting because someone was ill.
“I walked to the back of the plane twice to ask the flight attendants what was really going on,” Ms Asante-Smith said. “They were kind and gentle, especially in the midst of my brewing anxiety attack. They reassured me that everything was just fine and that the oxygen was low in the cockpit. Nerve wrecking, but fine, because life happens and the unfortunate situation was not in Delta’s control.”
Yet it was once the plane landed on Terceira Island that chaos started to ensue.
“We were directed to a partitioned section of the building without access to freely move around the airport because those with Ghanaian passports did not have the requisite visas. The crew members were shuttled to a hotel, not to be seen again. From that point, we never heard from or saw a Delta representative in any official capacity,” continued Ms Asante-Smith.
The small Lajes Airport on the island has only one terminal and has a small annual passenger traffic, with only 680,000 passengers arriving and departing in 2022, according to Airports Data.
While there are a few flights running to the United States and Canada, most of its flight schedule is made up of other Portuguese airports and nearby European flights.
The issue that many passengers faced was that Delta Air Lines had no representative staff at the airport as they don’t run flights to and from there. There are only six airlines that operate out of Lajes Airport.
Without representatives, there was a conundrum of who was to take responsibility for the exhausted passengers.
Hungry and thirsty, the passengers asked if they would be able to receive any food or drink. Ms Asante-Smith said that if they were thirsty they were instructed to drink from the “bathroom faucets.” Eventually, after many complaints, a small cafe opened and they were able to buy food from there, as well as a while after that, the airport provided them with ham sandwiches and snacks in paper bags.
Other passengers also took to social media to try and get the attention of Delta Air Lines on how they were being treated within the airport.
Kiarundra Eggleston posted a tweet on X saying “This female rep told us we should be grateful that they allowed us to be here and our plane didn’t crash in the sea,”
Sarkodie, a famous Ghanaian rapper was flying to the US to perform in Detroit, which he missed due to the emergency landing.
“[Delta] didn’t have the courtesy to update us on exactly what was happening, sat at the airport for about 6 hours,” he wrote on X. “No compensation nothing and our bags [are] still on the island.”
According to Ms Asante-Smith, the passengers were stranded on a hard airport floor for over 12 hours, some of whom were elderly, pregnant or with small children. After this long wait, they finally left the island without their luggage.
Once they arrived at JFK, Delta assured them that “Red Agents” would help them with food vouchers or hotels, however, Ms Asante-Smith said she was told by Delta staff they were currently overwhelmed and should just save their receipts for reimbursement.
In a statement regarding this incident, Delta Air Lines that refunds and an “additional gesture of goodwill” have since been provided to the customers. The company told The Independent: “Delta flight 157 from Accra to New York-JFK diverted to Lajes Airport following a mechanical issue with a backup oxygen system. The crew descended to a lower altitude our of an abundance of caution during the diversion and the aircraft landed safely,” the statement said. “An alternate aircraft was dispatched from Lisbon to help our customers more quickly get to their final destinations while the original aircraft was repaired by maintenance technicians. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their travels.”