COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating an incident on Friday in which passengers on a United Express flight were diverted from Denver International Airport to the Colorado Springs Airport and spent nearly six hours on the tarmac before they were allowed to leave the aircraft, possibly violating federal rules.
The bathrooms ran out of supplies and little food was available, passengers said.
Regulations adopted by the federal agency bar U.S. airlines from keeping an aircraft on the tarmac for more than three hours without letting passengers leave the plane, with exceptions for safety, security or if air traffic control tells the pilot that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. Unauthorized delays can bring huge fines.
United Express Flight 4934, operated by Republic Airlines, was one of eight flights diverted from Denver International Airport to Colorado Springs because of weather. The flight left Kansas City at 5 a.m. and landed in Colorado Springs around 7:30 a.m. Passengers were later put on buses to DIA, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported (http://tinyurl.com/qz5ytvw ).
Republic Airlines said the plane had to stay on the ground because of lightning and weather disruptions at DIA.
According to KOAA-TV (http://tinyurl.com/q4meqoq ), officials at the Colorado Springs Airport said they aren't sure why the airline didn't dock the planes at the gate to let the passengers off.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com