WOW air apologizes to passengers stranded for hours
HEBRON, KY (FOX19) - A representative from WOW air offered "it's most sincere apologies" Tuesday to nearly 200 passengers whose flight was ultimately delayed about 15 hours at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Flight # 144 was scheduled to depart with 191 passengers for Iceland just before 1 a.m., an airport spokeswoman confirmed.
But the plane stayed put due to "unforeseen issues regarding delivering all relevant papers to U.S. Customs and Border Protection," company officials wrote in a prepared statement.
"Despite best endeavors to solve the problem, WOW air was unable to resubmit the necessary papers before the operating crew's legal operating hours had elapsed."
By 5 a.m., frustrated WOW air passengers were calling the FOX19 NOW newsroom desperate for help. They said they were being forced to wait on the plane or in an area referred to as "The Bridge" between the plane and terminal.
They said they were not permitted to go into the terminal and were instructed to only use the restroom facilities on the plane.
Temperatures overnight were unseasonably warm and muggy and in the upper 70s.
"There's no electricity on board. We can't charge our phones. We've been sitting here for hours, " said passenger Margaret Monto of Springboro.
"Literally, all they gave us was a candy bar and water. That's all we've gotten so far," she said. "They said they needed paperwork from customs they never got. They said we can stay on the plane or bridge but can't go into the air conditioned terminal.
"This is ridiculous. They should be putting us up at a hotel. It's exhausting. You are supposed to be going on vacation and this is what we are doing."
We reached out to the airline and CVG representatives.
Shortly after, passengers were told the flight was rescheduled to leave at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.
"Passengers have been given meal vouchers at the airport and offered hotel accommodation," reads WOW air's statement.
"All passengers have been updated about their flight and options available to them. Passengers have been given the option to cancel their travels for a full refund of the flight or change to another date or destination.
"WOW air apologizes for the inconvenience this caused and is now working hard to accommodate all affected passengers."
"This is a nightmare," said passenger Sion Agami of Mason.
At first, Agami said, the airline gave them a customer service number to call for assistance and to try to re-book flights, but it didn't work.
Many passengers were planning to go onto Europe after visiting Iceland.
"We have all been trying to call and no one is picking up," he said. "There were two employees to help some 200 passengers at the counter."
The passengers should have been allowed into the terminal, said Mindy Kershner, CVG spokeswoman.
"According to CVG procedures, they are allowed in," she said.
Kershner said she was scrambled to the terminal once she learned about the problems from FOX19 NOW and quickly began trying to coordinate food, drinks and cots for all the passengers.
Airport officials reached out to the airline at once, she added: "We are already having conversations with them to make sure this doesn't happen again."
WOW air began low-cost service from CVG to Iceland and Europe last month, luring travelers with prices of $99 to Iceland.
Flights to European destinations such as Paris and Dublin cost about $149 each way.
The airline keeps ticket costs low by charging for a plethora of extras.
Passengers pay more for carry-on luggage, extra leg room, food and drinks.
On Wednesday, Kershner put out a timeline to Tuesday's events:
- Last passenger boarded aircraft at 1:12 a.m.
- Aircraft boarding door was never closed and jet bridge remained connected to the aircraft
- Flight crew was working to obtain customs paper work and encouraged passengers to remain on aircraft as the flight was to depart immediately upon customs clearance
- Flight crew advised passengers if they needed to deplane, to stay close in jet bridge so they could immediately re-board when customs clearance was received
- First passengers left the aircraft and jet bridge into terminal at 3:03 a.m.
- Additional passengers left the aircraft and jet bridge into terminal at 4:17 a.m.
- Flight was canceled at 5:12 a.m. due to crew time limitations and all passengers left the aircraft
- Flight was rescheduled for 3:45 p.m. and departed
"CVG Airport staff arranged a dedicated hospitality area with food, beverage and cots/places to rest for the passengers during their stay in our facilities," Kershner wrote in an email to FOX19 NOW. "Passengers expressed their gratitude for our hospitality."
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