She felt like a hostage inside the plane, one Kansas City passenger said.
The gates at the Colorado Springs airport were mere feet away. Beyond them food, water and clean restrooms.
Yet for close to seven hours Friday morning and afternoon, Lisa Davis and her fellow passengers on United Airlines Flight 4934 were denied those basic comforts as they sat inside a sweaty, foul-smelling airliner idled on the runway apron.
“It was just a horrifying experience,” said Davis, 44, one of dozens of passengers on what was supposed to have been a quick 6:05 a.m. flight from Kansas City to Denver.
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Instead, it turned into a nightmare when bad weather forced the pilot to divert the flight to Colorado Springs, where the plane sat and sat and sat.
Babies cried and screamed. Adults did too as the temperature rose and the cabin filled with the rank odor coming from the overtaxed bathroom.
United Airlines apologized to passengers in an email after they arrived at Denver International Airport and offered an unspecified “token of our appreciation.”
But Davis said airline officials at the airport were rude and not overly helpful in getting to their final destinations. Others who met the media in Denver agreed.
“I feel like we’ve been hijacked,” passenger Kathie Ridings told Denver TV station KOAA, “and there’s just been no sincere effort to help us.”
United said the aircraft was diverted because of severe weather and remained parked so long, in part, because of a lightning advisory.
“Passengers were offered the opportunity to deplane,” a spokesman said in a written statement.
But there was a catch. Those who left the plane were not offered transportation to Denver, where many had connecting flights. Plus, those who left were not allowed to leave with their checked baggage.
A few got off anyway, but not most.
“It really was a hostage situation,” said Davis.
Federal rules limit the amount of time that airline passengers can be forced to sit inside an idled plane, but there are exceptions.