Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Rome were reportedly trapped for more than seven hours on a plane without air conditioning, and were offered little in the way of food or water during the ordeal.
Social media posts by passengers say that the flight was delayed due to an issue with the air conditioning system, and that at least one passenger fainted and required medical attention.
In a statement to USA TODAY, United Airlines acknowledged the incident and said the flight was eventually canceled due to federal regulations around flight crew duty hours.
“On July 3, United flight 40 returned to the gate at Newark Liberty to address a temperature issue. Once there, we offered customers the opportunity to deplane and later provided snacks and beverages,” the statement said. “Our crew eventually exceeded their legally permitted duty hours and we had to cancel the flight. We regret we couldn’t provide our customers a better travel experience and offered compensation in the hopes of having an opportunity to welcome them back.”
For passengers the ordeal was certainly frustrating. Unfortunately, they’re likely not entitled to any additional compensation, aside from refunds for the cost of their ticket.
According to the Department of Transportation, airlines are required to provide passengers with food and water during onboard tarmac delays of more than two hours. Carriers are also required to give passengers an opportunity to leave the plane after three hours for domestic flights or four hours for international flights.
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However, airlines are not required to provide additional compensation for tarmac delays. They are also not required by the DOT to provide full meals, even during lengthy delays, so long as they make snacks available. The captain is also permitted to suspend or forbid drink and meal service during a tarmac delay if it is seen as a safety or security risk, for example, if the plane is situated on an active taxiway or runway during the delay.
In general, the DOT requires airlines to provide full refunds, even for nonrefundable tickets, if a flight is canceled, so the passengers from United flight 40 on July 3 would be entitled to their money back. But United does not commit and is not required to provide additional compensation for that kind of delay or cancellation, according to the DOT’s consumer dashboard.
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at email@example.com