American Airlines Passengers Stranded Mere Feet From Paradise, Complaining About Lack Of Food

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been telling people they needed to pay attention to Covid-era entry rules not just for their destination – did they need a test? proof of vaccination? could they visit at all? – but also for any connecting points along the way. You don’t want to get stuck in an airport where you can’t enter the country, in case your flight gets cancelled or you miss your connection.

But there’s not a lot you can do when your plane goes mechanical and you’re not allowed into the country. Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to American Airlines flight 38 from Miami to London Heathrow on Sunday evening.

The aircraft was out over the Atlantic when the cockpit decided to divert to the nearest suitable airport. For the Boeing 777-300ER, the largest plane in American’s fleet, that was Bermuda.

However by the time the aircraft was inspected on the ground to determine its airworthiness, the crew had timed out. They were sent to a hotel. Passengers off of the 9 year old jet, registration N724AN, however were not as lucky. Covid restrictions still in place require passengers to have an approved Travel Authorisation to enter the country.

Bermuda no longer requires people to be vaccinated to enter, but they still have a Covid bureaucracy around entry and that meant passengers had to spend the night without leaving the airport.

According to American Airlines,

“American Airlines flight 38, from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR), diverted to Bermuda (BDA) this morning after a possible mechanical issue. The aircraft landed safely at 12:40 a.m. (local time) and taxied to the gate. Customers are now scheduled to re-depart to LHR at 8 p.m. (local time) on a replacement aircraft. We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The food available to passengers, at first, appears to have been.. pretzels.

@AmericanAir In addition, we have been stuck here for approaching 6hrs with nothing but cups of water and a packet of pretzels. Sleep is impossible as the terminal lights extremely bright and unnecessary automated announcements every 5 minutes.

— Aron Clarke (@Clarkie354) August 29, 2022

Your ground staff seem incapable of giving any useful or relevant info other than a plane might come some time and we might be here for some time. At this rate we will have been in BDA for 18 hours loving off cups of water and a pretzel packet.

— Danny W (@d_dodger) August 29, 2022

Only bits of refreshments for the last 10 hours.

— Jonathan Lo (@jlo_conductor) August 29, 2022

Passengers slept on the floor, but it appears many did have blankets at least.

Shame on American Airlines – You have abandoned families after your faulty plane had to emergency land in Bermuda last night. No food, drinks, children are freezing cold. BA – Please help we booked this flight with you! #Americanair #britishairways #noplane

— Adrian Kelly (@AdrianK66042253) August 29, 2022

Breakfast appears to have been provided finally around lunch time.

303 passengers were stuck at the L.F. Wade International Airport after being diverted due to a technical fault at 12 40am. AA said a replacement plane is due to leave at 8pm. Passengers cannot check in to a local hotel, according to AA, because of the island's COVID protocols.

— Jasmine Patterson (@_jasminepat) August 29, 2022

@AmericanAir this is the queue for “breakfast”, the first bit of subsistence that arrived 11 hours after we landed.

Oh and the lounge that opened up refused to take any of your F or J passengers because, apparently, they don’t have a relationship with you.

— Jonathan Lo (@jlo_conductor) August 29, 2022

Reportedly the government was prepared to offer Covid testing to allow passengers into the country, but the airline declined. Presumably they would have been the ones having to pay for the tests, otherwise if testing was offered on an individual basis no doubt many of those from the flight would have gladly paid and found their own accommodations.

"The Ministry of Health's compliance team also stood by in case a decision was made to allow the passengers to leave the building and stretch their legs in a designated area. Again, no decision was made."

— Jasmine Patterson (@_jasminepat) August 29, 2022

The passengers of American Airlines flight AA38 are expected to get on a plane and try again to fly to Bermuda after about 20 hours in the airport.

Restrictions could have made sense for a small country with limited health care capacity to preserve ICU beds. It could have made sense in a country aiming towards Covid Zero when that was still possible. But when vaccinations are no longer even required, and antigen tests (not even PCR!) are accepted, it’s not even clear what they’re trying to accomplish.

The 7 day moving average of cases in Bermuda at this point is in the teens, the most widespread variants of the virus seem to produce less severe outcomes, and between vaccination and widespread prior infection, population-level immunity is high. Bermuda’s policies seem antiquated at this point, though of course U.S. entry rules are byzantine as well.

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