Frozen hell: 250 United passengers spend night stranded in a 777

AeroTime throwback | Ever wondered what it would be like to travel on a Santa’s sleigh? We do not know either, but these unlucky passengers on United Airlines flight UA179 had the first-hand experience on what it would be like to spend the night on it. Apparently, warm is definitely not the word to describe the experience. 

This article was first published on January 21, 2019. 

About 250 passengers of a United Airlines flight from New York to Hong Kong spent the night in their grounded plane after it diverted to Happy Valley-Goose Bay airport on January 19, 2019. The temperature was about -30 degrees Celsius.

A Boeing 777-224ER, registered N76010, left New York Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to carry out flight UA179 to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). However due to a medical emergency, it diverted to Goose Bay Airport (YYR) in Canada. A passenger was transported to the hospital.

However, when the time came to continue the flight, a technical problem prevented the plane from taking off. A spokesperson for United Airlines informed local CBC News that a frozen mechanism was blocking a door which could not be closed. And indeed the temperature was low in that part of Canada, around -30°C at the time.

Passengers were not allowed to disembark. Different reports say that either Goose Bay Airport was not fit to house the 250 passengers, or that no customs agent was present at the time the plane was grounded. United crew distributed blankets for the passengers to spend the night.

One of the unlucky travelers, professional wrestler Sonjay Dutt, voiced his concern regarding the extreme temperature.

He later thanked Goose Bay officials when they brought coffee and snacks in the morning, as the passengers were running low on food.

It was only 14 hours after the plane landed in in Goose Bay Airport that a rescue plane took the passengers back to Newark International Airport, forcing many travelers to cancel their trip to Hong Kong.

On November 11, 2018, Air France faced a similar situation when one of its Boeing 777-300 heading from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) found itself stuck in Irkutsk International Airport (IKT) after an emergency landing. 282 passengers and 16 crew members were on board. The rescue plane sent by Air France was unable to take off after its hydraulic system froze. It was only the third Boeing 777 of the company that managed to take the passengers to their destination, three days after they left Paris.

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