An Etihad Airways (EY 183) flight, bound for San Francisco, was held on the tarmac for 12 hours leaving passengers without food or accurate information as to when they would depart, according to reports.
Etihad said that severe fog on Saturday at Abu Dhabi International Airport delayed flights and led to the cancellation of about 20 return flights out of its hub.
“They kept telling us that we were going to leave, you know 15 minutes from now, 20 minutes from now, 30 minutes from now, for 12 hours,” passenger Thomas Piani told reporters in San Francisco after finally landing in the city on Saturday evening, The Telegraph reported.
Passengers told the reporters that they were asked to wait in the plane, as Abu Dhabi airport was too crowded with passengers from other stranded flights.
Etihad has issued a formal apology to all passengers aboard EY 183 for the delay they experienced.
“EY183 was one of the flights most affected by the runway closure at 2.30am and the subsequent congestion and significant delays which impacted all airlines,” an Etihad spokesperson said.
“During the time on the ground, awaiting permission to take-off, passengers were provided with refreshments and were updated about the reasons for the rolling delay caused by the extreme weather conditions.
“The passengers remained on the aircraft as all efforts were being made to secure a new departure time. The delay was then compounded by the requirement to replace the aircraft’s ultra-long haul operating crew who had exceeded their flight time limitations.”
The airline spokesperson said that the aircraft pushed back at 2.15pm local time and took off a short while later.
“Etihad Airways always strives to deliver the highest standards of customer service and on this occasion our ability to do so was impacted by circumstances which were largely beyond our control,” the Abu Dhabi-based airline said regarding the delay.
Etihad Airways, which was majorly impacted by the weather conditions, is still working to restore its flight schedule to normal, the airline said.
In the last 24 hours, the company has booked disrupted passengers into 2,000 hotel rooms in the city.
Those passengers still due to fly to, from, or through Abu Dhabi, up to and including Tuesday January 6, are encouraged to rebook their flights through Etihad Airways’ global contact centres, the airline added.
Etihad Airways will waive normal cancellation and refund fees during this period.