US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has confirmed that his department is investigating the circumstances surrounding a Delta Air Ways flight that was delayed on the tarmac in the searing heat.
Delta Flight 555 was reportedly waiting to depart Las Vegas Harry Reid Airport (LAS) for up to four hours on Monday, July 17, 2023, leading to multiple passengers needing medical help.
Temperatures at the time were 111F (44C) and it was reported by a Fox News producer, who was on board the Boeing 757, that there was no air conditioning.
The flight, which was due to land in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL), was eventually cancelled and the passengers exited the aircraft.
If passengers on domestic US flights find themselves delayed on the tarmac, then after three hours they must be provided with the option to deplane.
“I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat onboard an aircraft for that long,” Buttigieg told Reuters.
He added: “Even under normal temperatures a tarmac delay is not supposed to go that long, and we have rules about that, which we are actively enforcing, and this is being investigated right now.”
There were also reports of cabin crew members becoming ill while the plane waited.
“Delta teams are looking into the circumstances that led to uncomfortable temperatures inside the cabin and we appreciate the efforts of our people and first responders at Harry Reid International,” Delta said in a statement.
Delta told Reuters that the flight was canceled just over three hours from departure time, and the aircraft did make at least one gate return.