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JetBlue takes to YouTube to apologize to stranded passengers

By Ric Ward, CNN
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Tue November 1, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • JetBlue head says the airline let some of its customers down
  • Rob Maruster asks for a "second chance"
  • Pilot: Crying baby, fighting, two passengers' medical conditions ramped up tension
  • JetBlue apologizes, saying weather and size of airport contributed to backlog

(CNN) -- The head of JetBlue is apologizing for a "confluence of events" that left a plane filled with passengers stranded on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Connecticut, over the weekend.

Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster said in a video posted on the company's blog and its YouTube Channel that the airline had six flights divert to Hartford during the freak weekend snowstorm "due to various runway, congestion and other operational issues at Newark and JFK Airports" and that the airline "did not deplane those aircraft in our target time allotted."

One of those flights, JetBlue 504 from Fort Lauderdale spent nearly eight hours stranded on the tarmac before passengers were allowed to deplane.

"At no point in this weekend was safety ever compromised," Maruster said, stressing that safety was the airline's number one concern.

Passengers angry after 8 hours on plane
Passengers stranded on the tarmac
Passengers stranded on the tarmac
Time-lapse of the snowfall in New Jersey

"But let's face it, you count on us at JetBlue for a lot more -- and we promise a lot more -- and we know we let some of you down over the course of this weekend and for that we are truly sorry."

Maruster said the airline intends to "fully participate with the Department of Transportation and cooperating with their investigation into events over the weekend, and we're also going to conduct an internal evaluation so that we can learn from this event because at the end of the day, you deserve better -- and we expect better from our crewmembers and our operation."

"We can only earn your loyalty and trust one flight at a time and we ask you to give us a second chance."

JetBlue Flight 504 departed Fort Lauderdale at 10:07 a.m. ET Saturday -- 32 minutes late.

The flight made it to Newark -- just not to the runway, thanks to the weather before it was diverted to Hartford. It landed at 1:07 p.m.

What came next was an eight-hour ordeal for passengers -- and crew -- as the plane sat stuck on the tarmac with little food or water.

"I got a problem here on the airplane. I'm going to need to have the cops onboard," a flight crew member told the tower in a conversation posted on LiveATC.net, a website that monitors air traffic control conversations. "I need some air stairs brought over here and the cops brought onboard the airplane."

Passenger Roseann Kozma explained the situation in a phone interview with CNN affiliate WTIC-TV from the plane.

"A couple passengers are fighting and there's a baby on here that's been crying the whole time," she said.

"We cannot go to the bathrooms anymore. There's no running water," said Todd Bailey, another passenger. "They tell us that we're going to be going in soon, going in soon, going in soon -- and it just never happens."

Adding to the frustration and tension were passengers with medical conditions.

"I have a paraplegic that needs to come off," the pilot said. "I have a diabetic here that's got an issue ... I've just got to get some help."

But the plane was still not at a gate, further frustrating the pilot.

"Look, you know, we can't seem to get any help from our own company," the pilot told the tower. "I apologize for this, but if there is any way you can get a tug and a tow bar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something. I don't care, take us anywhere."

The pilot, though frustrated, offered thanks to Bradley International officials.

"Listen, I just want to put in my two cents worth in for whatever it worth. Thank you very much," he said. "It's Capt. Thompson over here on (Flight) 504 ... I think we've got more help from you guys than our own people."

The passengers broke into applause when the door finally opened, saying "Let us out! Let us out! Let us out!"

Passengers deplaned around 9 p.m., according to JetBlue.

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