Passengers of a Delta Air Lines flight that diverted to Lajes Airport (TER) on Terceira Island, in the Azores were allegedly told to be “grateful” after requesting status updates and better provisions.
Flight DL 157 departed from Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Accra, Ghana to New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on September 8, 2023 when it diverted to TER airport due to a mechanical issue relating to oxygen levels.
Lajes Airport is located halfway between Africa and the United States, so it is used to diversions. However, Delta does not operate in Lajos Airport so it does not have its own staff.
Passengers were handled by airport staff who acted on behalf of Delta Air Lines.
Several of the passengers took to social media platforms Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to recount their ordeal, which included having no drinking water or food, no updates from the airline, and being told to be “grateful” that their plane did not crash at sea.
One of the passengers, Nana Asante-Smith narrated her experience, tagging Delta Air Lines and the airline’s CEO Ed Bastian in her post.
Asante-Smith said she does not fault Delta for the diversion, saying that the mechanical issue was not under the airline’s control, but considered the way passengers were handled at Lajes Airport to be the airline’s responsibility.
Asante-Smith said that the moment they arrived at the airport, the flight attendants were shuttled to a hotel, while the passengers were led to a part of the airport.
She said that movement was also restricted because most of the passengers did not have visas or the appropriate passports to be able to leave the airport.
Asante-Smith said that for the entire time at the airport, they never saw the Delta flight attendants again, or any direct Delta employees, and only interacted with airport staff who acted on Delta’s behalf.
Asante-Smith complained that they were given conflicting updates, such as first being told that they will be provided food, before finding out later that this would not be the case and Delta had apparently told the airport that the passengers had been fed during the flight.
She said that when they asked for water bottles, a staff member told them that they can drink water from the airport tap. Asante-Smith said that after “much begging and pleading”, passengers were later given bags of ham sandwiches, which most could not consume because many have religious beliefs about not eating pork.
She said that they spent almost 12 hours in the airport with no clear updates, and with people becoming sick on the floor.
When people demanded updates, she said that a staff member admonished them to not start a “revolution” and to be “grateful to be given a second chance at life”.
A separate social media post from a different passenger corroborated this claim, saying that the representative told them they should be grateful they were allowed at the airport and that their plane “did not crash in the sea”.
While they eventually made it to JFK airport after a more than 12 hour delay, the saga did not end and passengers continued to demand an explanation from Delta regarding inconsistent compensations.