For nearly four hours last Thursday night, Flight 5637, a 50-seat regional jet, was stuck on the ground by bad weather at Kennedy International Airport. The air-conditioning wasnâ€™t working, and no one seemed to have a clue about when the plane would take off.
Flight 5637 boarded at 6 p.m., more than an hour late. Shortly after boarding, Mr. Ollila said, â€œthe pilot announced that the air-conditioning system was broken, and it would be uncomfortable, but that we should be under way shortly.”
By 9.30 p.m., some passengers were standing in the narrow aisle and fanning themselves and children with magazines. Mr. Ollila approached the cockpit.
â€œI figured if I started recording and asking the pilots what was going on and why they couldnâ€™t make a decision to get people off the plane that the police would come and take us off â€” and that is exactly what happened,â€he said.
Iâ€™ve seen Mr. Ollilaâ€™s recording. At first the captain asks if Mr. Ollila is â€œrecording,” to which Mr. Ollila replies that he is. Still, the captain replied to Mr. Ollilaâ€™s persistent questions for about five minutes. In his responses, the captain basically said he had no authority to release the passengers without approval from Comairâ€™s headquarters. â€œHe said, â€˜If you keep this up Iâ€™m going to have to call the police.â€™ I said, â€˜Thatâ€™s an excellent idea,â€™ ” Mr. Ollila said.