"To make a long story short, we stayed the entire night on the runway in this plane until about 6:30 in the morning," Christin said.
His Continental Airlines flight, which was operated by ExpressJet Airlines, was supposed to fly from Houston to the Twin Cities, but severe weather forced the small plane to land in Rochester around midnight to refuel.
ExpressJet says the flight crew had reached its maximum work hours in the air, so another flight crew had to be flown into Rochester.
In the meantime, the airline wouldn't let passengers off the plane because T.S.A. screeners had gone home and passengers legally couldn't get back on the plane, ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas said Sunday.
Plus, Nicholas says the airport did not have enough personnel to let passengers sleep in the terminal. So 47 passengers and three crew members spent the night on the plane.
"Everybody in the plane was kind-of moving, trying to find positions to sleep in," Christin said. "There wasn't any room, the plane was getting warmer."
Christin says at least two babies were on board and they cried throughout the night.
"The smells were getting worse, the bathroom was getting worse," he says. "The babies had obviously started going to the bathroom."
After the plane landed in Rochester, Christin says passengers were never offered any food. They received a bag of pretzels before the plane landed in Rochester.
Passengers were finally allowed off the plane around 6:30 a.m., Christin said, after T.S.A. screeners arrived.
"To me, the one thing that's unacceptable is letting people stay on a little airplane like that for an entire night," Christin says.
Three hours later, around 9:30 a.m., the passengers left Rochester and flew back to the Twin Cities on that same plane. Christin says the bathroom was out of order during the flight home.
ExpressJet says it tried to charter a bus to transport customers to the Twin Cities, but the airline couldn't find a bus.
"We do sincerely apologize," Nicholas says. "It's not the way we like to have people travel."
The airline says its priorities were ensuring safety and following federal regulations, but it will investigate to see if anything could've been done differently.
Christin thinks the airline should have called the airport manager to see if the terminal could be reopened.
He hopes this incident prompts lawmakers to pass legislation that will prevent airlines from keeping passengers on airplanes for such a long time. Congress is considering such a measure.
CNN/KARE source: http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=821805&catid=391
EDIT: courtesy of 0405: "Continental was in control of the situation the whole time. I have to refer questions to Continental." "They (ExpressJet/Continental) had to work out something with Delta," presumably for access to a gate. "I do know there were talks between them and Delta."
and Continental offers refunds to stranded fliers