Las Vegas: Two headaches that have dogged the summer - scorching heat and flight delays - came together on a Delta flight in Las Vegas this week.
Several passengers onboard fainted after it sat on the apron for over three hours without air conditioning. At least five passengers were wheeled off the plane after paramedics were called.
Passengers say they had no access to the bathroom and no idea when they would take off to Atlanta. All the while, they had to endure the soaring temperatures that are baking large swaths of the southern US.
Children screamed, adults relayed the nightmare on social media, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed his displeasure at Delta Air Lines and promised an investigation.
“I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat onboard an aircraft for that long,” he said in a statement earlier reported by Reuters. “Even at normal temperatures a tarmac delay is not supposed to go that long and we have rules about that, which we are actively enforcing right now.”
Temperatures in Las Vegas reached 116F on Monday when the incident occurred and are predicted to be 115F on Friday.
Delta said it’s cooperating with the investigation into flight 555, which was delayed three times on Monday, in part because of heat-related complications, and is conducting its own probe.
The Boeing 757, scheduled to fly from Harry Reid International Airport and carrying 197 passengers and six crew, was initially delayed for lack of one flight attendant. It pushed back from the gate but had to return because of weight and balance issues caused by the high temperatures, which can cause parts to swell and affect engine performance.
Heat also changes the surface air density and the amount of lift produced at a given speed, limiting the maximum aircraft weight for takeoff.
After waiting in line to take off, the Delta plane returned to the gate again when a passenger became ill. The flight was canceled before it could be pushed back a third time.
At the end of the ordeal, one passenger and a flight attendant were taken to a hospital as a result, the airline confirmed Friday.