BANGOR, Maine — Passengers aboard a Delta flight that originated in Detroit and landed at Bangor International Airport on Sunday night were surprised when no airline crew was there to greet them.
The flight landed around 7:45 p.m. and passengers sat on the plane for about an hour before they were able to proceed into the airport, according to Jamie McKown, a Bar Harbor resident who was on the flight.
Several minutes after landing, the pilot told passengers on the intercom that “we’ve been calling to find out where the ground crew is to tow us into the gate,” according to McKown. But no one arrived to start the process of getting the plane to the gate or disembarking it.
Ground crews from individual airlines are responsible for getting the plane to the gate and offloading it, an airport official said. Delta crews handle Delta flights, U.S. Airways crews handle U.S. Airways flights, and so on.
Some passengers started joking that “it’s just like that Stephen King story,” according to McKown.
“The Langoliers,” one of four stories that appeared in King’s 1990 book “Four Past Midnight,” included passengers on board a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston who wake to find most of their fellow passengers missing. The pilot decides to land the plane in Bangor, only to find the airport completely abandoned.
The novella was adapted into a two-part television movie, filmed at Bangor International Airport in the summer of 1995.
Bangor International Airport has its own ground crew, which towed the plane to the gate after learning that the passengers from Detroit had been waiting for awhile, according to Airport Director Tony Caruso. The airport’s crew couldn’t offload it because the airport doesn’t have authority to disembark passengers from airline flights, Caruso said Monday.
“We did as much as we could do, from the airport standpoint,” he added.
After about an hour, personnel from Delta arrived and passengers were able to leave.
Caruso said he doesn’t know what happened to the Delta crew and referred questions to Delta media relations. Caruso apologized to the passengers on behalf of the airport and said he would work with the airline to ensure a system is in place in case something like this happens again.
“All we know is there was no ground crew available,” Caruso said. “We assisted where we could, and certainly I’ll work with Delta management to put a contingency plan in place.”
A Delta spokesman said Monday morning that he would look into what happened Sunday night.
It wasn’t Delta’s last Sunday flight, as another plane from LaGuardia was scheduled to land around 11:20 p.m., according to flight schedules.
Caruso said such waits and confusion aren’t common at Bangor International Airport.
“This is a first since I’ve been here,” he said.
The wait wasn’t all that substantial compared with what passengers at larger airports sometimes experience. Airlines face stiff penalties if they fail to feed and provide water to passengers sitting on a plane for more than two or three hours, but that usually happens when planes are waiting to take off at a busy airport.