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Delta 510


Last week’s The Middle Seat column by Scott McCartney in the Wall Street Journal described the experience of Delta’s flight #510 from Turks and Caicos Islands (pictured above) to Atlanta one day last month. If you can’t resist horror stories, this one’s for you. Here are excerpts:

On Good Friday, April 10, what should have been a three-hour flight became a 13-hour ordeal for passengers heading home from a Caribbean vacation. When thunderstorms prevented Delta Air Lines Inc. Flight 510’s scheduled landing in Atlanta, the MD88 diverted to Columbia, S.C., for nine hours. Passengers spent five of those hours on the tarmac without food or water.

On the ground in Columbia at 5:44 p.m., Flight 510’s passengers were kept in the hot cabin for five hours without food while Delta’s crew hoped to get clearance for the flight back to Atlanta. The jet was refueled and ready to go at 6:20 p.m., according to Gary Edwards, Delta’s director of flight control, and given a takeoff time of 7:01 p.m. But a second wave of thunderstorms hit Atlanta, canceling that plan. A new takeoff time of 7:55 was issued, but the crew ran out of time under federal duty limits at 7:45 p.m. …

One passenger called 911 to report an emergency, claiming she was going into diabetic shock. When paramedics arrived, the woman said she was just hungry, airport officials said.

Delta says bathrooms were serviced after 2½ hours on the ground in Columbia — six hours after the plane left Providenciales. Delta did not order pizzas and sodas for passengers until 11:30 p.m., nearly six hours after landing in Columbia. They were delivered at 12:40 a.m., according to Delta’s Mr. Sessions.

It took more than two hours for federal, airport and airline officials to come up with a plan to get passengers off the plane. Because the flight was an international trip, people aboard needed to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration before they could be allowed freely into the terminal. Passengers were eventually herded into a barren room underneath the airport terminal. …

The basement room quickly proved unworkable, and passengers were taken upstairs into the terminal concourse and held in an area cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape. There they had bathrooms, a restaurant that remained open, seating and outlets for laptops and cellphones, Mr. Henderson said. He personally escorted some passengers down to the plane’s baggage compartment to retrieve essentials. …

Delta tried to redirect an MD88 crew to Flight 510 from one of the other flights diverted to Columbia, Mr. Edwards said, but by the time word reached the other crew, they already had clearance to fly to Atlanta. So another crew had to be flown in. Those pilots and flight attendants were put on an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight from Atlanta to Columbia, which didn’t arrive until nearly 1 a.m., more than three hours late.

In Columbia, about 30 people opted to clear Customs and stay there because they happened to live in South Carolina or just didn’t want to fly to Atlanta in the middle of the night. With the remaining passengers and new pilots, Flight 510 took off from Columbia at 2:45 a.m. and landed at 3:28 a.m.

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