US Airways: Why did a July 2018 air conditioning incident go viral?

Written by Baarish Singh, CNN

On the morning of July 18, a ground crew at New York’s LaGuardia Airport had been called to replace an air conditioner on the inbound MD-80 airliner of US Airways Flight 300.

But by the time the crew arrived to adjust it, the temperature had risen well past 78 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius), nearly breaking the confines of both the cabin and exterior of the aircraft. Incoming passengers were advised that the aircraft could not be occupied.

Airline representatives were later to inform that the plane had experienced a sudden and unexpected spike in temperature. The crew were therefore unable to remedy the situation.

After the incident, many a flight passenger voiced their fury on social media, tagging US Airways. The airline became the butt of jokes and complaints. The incident went viral, catching the airline’s attention and incensing its passengers.

Flight delays: More solutions

More than a year later, US Airways has yet to issue a publicly-disclosed outcome to the incident. It’s unclear whether the airline intends to pay out compensation for delayed flights.

A US Airways spokeswoman said in an email that “Crews on aircraft and ground equipment are inspected for equipment maintenance once a flight takes off,” but did not say how often they do this before takeoff.

Outlandish claims?

So, what exactly happened in that incident, and why did it go viral? As with most travel stories, the incident is not without controversy.

A US Airways spokeswoman says the following claims have been made, in contrast to passenger testimonies:

1 / 12 Supplied by US Airways

The plane’s weight (in lbs) was properly imposed

Passengers were told to wait while the plane became cool.

The flight itself was not delayed.

A flight attendant had asked passengers to be patient, in line with normal airplane procedures.

US Airways should have investigated this incident before giving out compensation.

For its part, US Airways says passengers were told to be patient for up to 70 minutes — an extended period of time in jet lag-related travel — as crews worked to move the plane onto the tarmac.

This includes restoring an emergency chute to the emergency slides on the aircraft’s rear wheels, and building a system to begin the de-icing process on the pilots’ stalls while the aircraft was still on the runway.

The airline also says it has a policy of not moving bags until completed de-icing procedures are complete — a rule presumably implemented to mitigate damage to baggage.

US Airways CEO, Steve Johnson, told CNN’s Abby Martin that the airline’s compensation policy is tied to gate fees.

A US Airways spokeswoman tells CNN the airline covers any delayed flights up to a maximum of $250 for baggage and $100 for meals and service. Depending on the region and the number of canceled, delayed and disrupted flights, some of this may be surpassed by meals, water and accommodations expenses.

Beyond the compensation, US Airways says it had an informational hotline for families affected by the incident, and a hardship help line.

Few answers

The airline says it’ll continue to offer its assistance to families experiencing delays to support them in their time of need.

It will not, however, pay out compensation.

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