NWA Strikes Again

Thu Dec 30, 1999 2:26 am

I have nothing against NWA but.....

Filed at 11:50 a.m. EST

By The Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) -- A day after passengers were stuck in a Northwest Airlines jetliner in Minneapolis for four hours before their flight was canceled, passengers on another plane spent 6 1/2 hours on the tarmac at O'Hare International.

By the time they got off the Northwest Airlines-KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight at O'Hare late Monday, some passengers were screaming at airline workers. And a woman fainted while waiting in a hour-long line for a hotel voucher.

Northwest officials even called police to the gate to handle any trouble after hearing threatening remarks from some passengers. No arrests were made.

``I was the one who started shouting,'' said Vish Narendra, who was traveling with his family to India. ``If anything could go wrong, it did.''

In fact, when he got off the plane, Narendra said, he found a single airline employee to handle hotel and information needs of the flight's 276 passengers.

The Amsterdam-bound flight was to have taken off at 5:50 p.m. Mechanics called to deal with an engine malfunction believed they could make repairs within minutes, so the airlines decided to keep passengers on the plane.

During the 6 1/2 hours, passengers said, the flight crew served them food and drinks and tried to make them comfortable.

Northwest spokesman Jon Austin said passengers were offered a chance to leave the 747 several hours into the delay, but none did.

Several passengers, however, said the airlines denied requests to deplane because there was no secure place for them to go. Aviation Department spokeswoman Monique Bond said her office was not asked to secure an area for the passengers.

The delay is yet another embarrassment for Northwest. On Sunday, 101 passengers were stuck on a plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, one of Northwest's three hubs, for hours before the Washington-bound flight was canceled because of poor weather.

In January, several thousand passengers sat on grounded Northwest planes in Detroit during a snowstorm. Some passengers sat for up to eight hours in conditions that included no food and water and overflowing toilets.

Northwest was sued, and the incident was one of many that led to a national passenger rights bill instituted earlier this month in which airlines promised to be more responsive to customer complaints.

But the foulup in Chicago may signal a problem with the agreement. Foreign carriers, which are increasingly forming partnerships with U.S. airlines for international flights, are not bound by the agreement.