ABU DHABI // Passengers aboard an aircraft that was delayed for four hours at Abu Dhabi airport last week said heat that built up inside the plane grew "beyond tolerable".
Etihad flight EY17 bound for London was scheduled to depart at 1.30pm last Wednesday, but a technical fault left the plane on the tarmac for more than an hour, raising the temperature inside the cabin. But a medical emergency a short while later further delayed the flight, with the flight ultimately departing about four hours later.
Several passengers aboard the flight wrote to The National, complaining about the heat that built up inside the plane.
"I am still a bit in shock from this experience," said Deborah Reas, an American who was on the flight.
"It was extremely uncomfortable. Most people expect to tolerate some inconvenience when travelling but this was beyond tolerable."
Several passengers received oxygen because of the heat, one passenger said, and some small children were stripped off and dabbed with cold towels.
"We regret the discomfort and inconvenience caused by this delay, which was due two separate issues outside our control," said a spokesperson for Etihad. "The captain did everything possible to ensure the technical issue was resolved quickly, and took the unusual step of keeping the engines running to keep the aircraft as cool as possible until all guests on board could be disembarked."
The incident began shortly after the aircraft was fully boarded, when a technical problem in the cockpit required attention by technicians.
"Technicians came on board for about 30 minutes," said one passenger. "The cabin was becoming oppressive and passengers were asking if the air conditioning was working."
After the problem was resolved and the plane taxied towards the runway, a distressed passenger requested to be let off the flight, prompting the captain to return to the gate.
The passengers were then asked to disembark into the terminal.
"Several exhausted passengers came off in wheelchairs," said one passenger. "Some passengers caught the later flight. It was a really distressing experience.
"It was roasting. I still can't understand why they couldn't put the air conditioning on while we sat on the runaway. "If technical problems are necessary, passengers shouldn't be forced to wait on a plane without proper air conditioning while repairs are undertaken," Ms Reas said,
Etihad said it was sorry for the inconvenience, noting that "we do appreciate that it was a difficult and uncomfortable situation for our customers, for which we sincerely apologise".