United Airlines passengers planning to snuggle in for a 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai instead found themselves unfurling their airline-issued blankets in Alaska for two days.
After a smooth takeoff from San Francisco at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, United Flight 857 was diverted to the nearest airport after several of the plane's bathrooms were found to be inoperable, United spokesman Charles Hobart confirmed.
The nearest airport just happened to be Anchorage, and it was there that the flight's 262 passengers found themselves stuck for two days facing a flurry of complications.
First, the passengers were not allowed to deplane until eight that evening, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Then the airline did not offer the passengers meal vouchers until 10 or 11 p.m. and, even then, there were "only a handful of employees to hand out 262 sets of vouchers," the paper reports.
Once off the plane, many passengers were not able to book hotel rooms because they were from China and did not have the credit cards required by the hotels for check-in, passengers told the paper.
United attempted to get the passengers back on track on Monday with another flight, but that plane too experienced problems and passengers had to deplane, again, after being stuck on a flight with no working toilets and, in this case, no power or lights.
The third time proved to be the lucky charm for the passengers when a third Boeing 777 was brought in on Tuesday and continued the passengers on their journey to Shanghai.
That plane, airport personnel told the Anchorage Daily News, departed at 2:40 p.m. local time Tuesday, just over 48 hours after the passengers departed San Francisco on their ill-fated flight.
Hobart told the Associated Press that United pledged to offer each passenger a full refund for the price of their ticket and are talking with passengers about additional compensation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- United Airlines