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Passengers say they were held on hot plane for 4 hours

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Virgin Atlantic says it does not operate under new tarmac law
  • Flight from London to New Jersey diverted
  • Passengers say they were on tarmac for more than 4 hours

(CNN) -- Passengers aboard a Virgin Atlantic plane that was diverted to Connecticut complained Wednesday they were held on the hot plane for hours with no food or water until 1 a.m.

The flight had been headed to Newark, New Jersey, from London, England, and was diverted late Tuesday because of bad weather conditions, the airline said.

Passenger Beth Willan said it felt like 100 degrees in the plane as they waited on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport, where they landed at 8:20 p.m. To top it, she said, the plane lost power at least three times, leaving the passengers in darkness.

"It was like four hours on the ground without any air conditioning. It was crazy. Just crazy," said Willan. "There were babies on the plane. And we are in dark and hot. You try to be patient but people were yelling and screaming."

Willlan and other passengers that contacted CNN said at least three people passed out and had to be taken away in ambulances.

There were 300 passengers on the flight.

Virgin Atlantic said there was a delay because U.S. immigration officers had to be put in place at an airport not accustomed to dealing with so many people.

Some passengers were put on buses to Newark and the airline was working to get the rest on their way, the airline said.

"Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused," a Virgin spokeswoman said earlier.

The spokeswoman said there was at least one passenger that was taken to the hospital during the incident.

"There is no evidence to link this with the flight," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail to CNN.

Stories like these have become so commonplace that a law was recently passed to address these long tarmac waits.

The new tarmac delay rule went into effect this year.

The rule is designed to prevent planes on domestic routes from sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours with passengers on board.

Airlines who violate the rule could face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger, the maximum allowed for violating any aviation consumer rule.

That rule did not apply to Tuesday's flight, Virgin said.

"That is a U.S. regulation," an airline spokesman said. "We are a European carrier so we operate under European law. We haven't infringed any rules."

"This is unforgivable," said Willan, who spoke to CNN while on the bus to Newark. "Some of us have missed our connection flights. Many of us are trying to figure out how we are going to get home once we get to Newark airport."

CNN's Divina Mims, Ric Ward, and Laura Perez Maestro contributed to this report.