MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of passengers said they were stranded at Memphis International Airport, unable to leave.
An international flight to Dallas was diverted to Memphis when the issues began.
Passengers said they became stuck at the airport at 5 p.m. Sunday because when they arrived, there was no one in customs to screen them so they could leave the airport.
An airport spokesman said employees had to be called in to screen the travelers.
The American Airlines flight left London around 6 a.m. and was on the way to Dallas before being diverted because of storms.
Adam Dunayer, a passenger on the flight, said there was one problem after another, from a fuel truck breaking down to the tow bar braking as crews tried to tow the plane, to the pilots timing out.
Dunayer said he and the other 300 or so passengers were left on the plane for more than four hours before they were allowed to get off. From there, they became stuck in the airport.
“They made a series of bad decisions, which led us to basically be sequestered, trapped in the Memphis airport with no place to go. We can’t leave because there’s no way to get us through customs,” Dunayer said. “It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever been associated with in air travel and I travel probably three times a week.”
He said he understands why the airline had to divert the plane for safety reasons, but he and other passengers wished the airline was more prepared to take care of a situation like this.
American Airlines said customs and border patrol experienced computer issues that caused the holdup and the passengers were allowed to leave the airport and get hotel rooms.
As for being stuck on the tarmac, the U.S Department of Transportation says airlines are required to give passengers an opportunity to safely get off the plane before three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights.
The passengers on Flight 81 made it to their destination after an overnight stay in the Bluff City.