American Airlines passengers frustrated over delays to deplane

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Passengers aboard American Airlines flights said they had to wait on the tarmac for hours before arriving at their gate due to a staffing shortage.

“We landed and then the pilot came on said there was a problem that they didn’t have enough staffing and so we had to sit out on some special area on the runway,” Ann O’Connor said. “They kept saying there was only two employees, they’re short-staffed.”

O’Connor and her husband were returning home after visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday, touching down at Gerald R. Ford International Airport around 5’oclock Saturday evening. She said the waited nearly two hours to disembark from the plane.

Rob Obbink from Holland said his parents had a similar experience. He said he went to the airport to pick them up Saturday evening, waiting hours for them to disembark their flight arriving from Chicago.

“It ended up being two hours and forty-five minutes sitting on the plane and the only thing they were told at first was that they were short-handed,” Obbink said. “…They were being told this by the pilot and they said that they only had two gates available to disembark planes and there were planes landing one after another so I’m imagining that this is happening to other people too.”

Airport spokesperson Mary Ann Sabo told News 8 the airport was always open and operational. “Gate issues like this are due to staffing issues with the airlines, not the airport,” Sabo stated.

News 8 reached out to American Airlines about what happened but not have heard back.
Passengers like O’Connor want answers from the airline.

“Everybody kept their cool, but that’s a long time to sit out on a tarmac,” O’Connor said. “They said twenty minutes and it turned out to be at least an hour and a half.”

According to Sabo, more than 500 flights came through Ford Airport between Tuesday and Sunday. Of those, approximately 176 were operated by American Airlines. Despite slight delays for five departing flights Saturday evening due to snowfall, Sabo said the majority of flights ran on time or early throughout the long holiday weekend.

“Our maintenance crews are fully staffed and working as quickly and safely as possible to remove snow from the runways,” Sabo said.

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