Because of bad weather, Continental's July 19 Flight 1669 from Caracas, Venezuela, to Newark, N.J., was diverted to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where it landed at 1:50 p.m. Passengers said after sitting on the grounded plane for hours, they began protesting by banging on overhead compartments, clapping their hands and even signing a petition asking to be let off.I understand that regulations would require passengers on an international flight be cleared through customs when let off the plane--but BWI is an International airport with a Customs office. They could have cleared customs in Baltimore and then found transportation to Newark via train, which runs through BWI's complex. It would have been relatively simple to take the plane to the international concourse at BWI, off load the passengers, clear customs and go from there.
"We were not provided with food," said passenger Caroline Murray. "There were passengers who were ill. There was one woman who was diabetic. There was a pregnant woman with small children. It was shocking to me."
As the 124 passengers repeatedly tried to get answers as to why they couldn't land in Newark or get off the plane, someone caught the scene on film.
"When you've got passengers about ready to riot, you've got an air crew that's not properly trained to communicate," said ABC News aviation consultant John Nance.
At 6:30 p.m., homeland security officers finally allowed passengers to exit the plane, but their troubles didn't end. The officers led them into a room, where they were held for two additional hours.
"We were removed from the plane and were forced to walk single file against the wall, flanked by armed officers one of whom had an attack dog," Murray said.
Then it was back on the plane for an additional hour of waiting before the flight finally left for Newark. It landed around 10 p.m., nine hours late.
Continental Airlines said because Flight 1669 was international, federal law prohibited it from allowing passengers off the plane.
The behavior of the airline and of Homeland Security is deplorable. But you can't sue Homeland Security for being negligent or stupid. Continental on the other hand.....