U.S. Investigating Why Delta Passengers Were Kept on Plane in Extreme Heat

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that it was investigating why passengers on a Delta Air Lines flight had been left to swelter for hours in triple-digit temperatures while the plane waited on the tarmac at a Las Vegas airport on Monday.

The flight, DL555, to Atlanta, was supposed to take off from Harry Reid International Airport on Monday but instead sat on the tarmac, where the extreme heat sickened passengers, causing some of them to faint, according to reports posted to social media by those on board.

The ordeal lasted nearly three hours, with paramedics boarding the plane to wheel out three people who had fallen ill, Krista Garvin, a passenger and a producer for Fox News, wrote on Twitter.

@Delta what an INSANE experience. First we were delayed because you did not have a flight attendant. Then we finally board and sit for almost 3 hours on a hot plane in 111 degree weather. Now we are heading back to the gate cause people are passing out. We are now being told you

“They said to press your call button if you need medical assistance,” she said. “Babies are screaming crying. They’re handing out sandwiches to the diabetics.”

She later added, “I am just shook.”

In a clip posted by Ms. Garvin, the captain appears to make an announcement apologizing to those aboard for the extreme heat. Eventually, passengers disembarked because “too many people were sick and they want to try and cool down the plane,” Ms. Garvin said, noting that passengers were then told that the crew had fallen ill.

Another passenger said on Instagram that she had run out of food and diapers for her baby, but that despite the heat, he had managed to remain calm. Others reported that Delta had not provided them with any water and that the bathrooms had been closed.

Delta Air Lines did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday night but told ABC News it was investigating the incident.

“We apologize for the experience our customers had on Flight 555 from Las Vegas to Atlanta on July 17, which ultimately resulted in a flight cancellation,” the company said in a statement. “Delta teams are looking into the circumstances that led to uncomfortable temperatures inside the cabin, and we appreciate the efforts of our people and first responders at Harry Reid International.”

Temperatures in Las Vegas reached 114 degrees on Monday as much of the country baked in a heat wave that has broken temperature records in a number of cities, leaving millions under excessive heat warnings.

According to the Transportation Department, airlines are required to provide comfortable cabin temperatures during tarmac delays.

“I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat on board an aircraft for that long,” Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, told Reuters on Thursday, noting that the episode had lasted several hours.

“Even at normal temperatures, a tarmac delay is not supposed to go that long, and we have rules about that, which we are actively enforcing right now,” he said.

Mark Walker contributed reporting.

Livia Albeck-Ripka is a reporter for The Times based in California. She was previously a reporter in the Australia bureau. More about Livia Albeck-Ripka

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