Tiffany Grace Devereaux is a seasoned air traveler, but when the cabin lights started flickering as the Alaska Airlines aircraft neared Buffalo, the L.A.-based travel blogger texted her mother for what she feared could be her final communication.
“That’s the first time I’ve been scared on a flight, and I’ve take hundreds of flights in my life,’’ Devereaux said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
For passengers on Flight 1367, the flickering lights began a bizarre, upsetting, and draining odyssey that lasted 30 hours. They flew from Boston, were diverted to Buffalo, and then returned to Boston, before most boarded a 4:30 p.m. flight to Los Angeles, the original destination, on Sunday.
After a night of no sleep, many unknowns, and little food, passengers were left frustrated, vowing never to fly with the company again.
Alaska Airlines did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about what went wrong or the airline’s response to the problems. But in an email to Devereaux, company officials wrote that “we clearly failed” during the long journey and that the “experience has initiated a full review across the company.”
“We are very sorry for the experience you had on Alaska Airlines Flight #1367 from Boston to Los Angeles this past weekend,’’ the email said. “We deeply regret the diversion to Buffalo that left you stranded for hours.”
Devereaux said Flight 1367 was troubled from the start. In Boston on Saturday evening, ground crews originally loaded the wrong luggage onto the aircraft.
Another passenger, Christine Simonson, said Alaska Airlines had said the initial flight was delayed due to weather, even though they could see the wrong bags being unloaded from the plane.
More delays ensued when the crew did a roll call to make sure the right passengers were on the right plane, Devereaux said. The flight had been scheduled to leave Logan International Airport at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, but did not get airborne until around 8 p.m., she said.
For the first 90 minutes, the flight was unremarkable. At that point, the flight crew stopped serving drinks, the lights started flickering, and the cabin smelled like electrical wiring was burning, Devereaux said.
The pilot then announced they were making an emergency diversion to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where they landed around 9:30 p.m. and were allowed to enter the terminal. There, they waited and waited.
Around 11:30 p.m., the flight crew brought food from the airplane into the terminal, but there wasn’t enough for all the passengers, and some could not eat because of dietary concerns.
Around midnight, the flight crew disappeared, Devereaux said.
But passengers remained as evening stretched into early morning and cellphone calls to the airline’s customer service were unhelpful.
“I had parents telling me they were down to their last diaper, and there were animals stuck in cages not being able to relieve themselves outside,’’ Devereaux said.
Debby Jamison said she couldn’t get to the daily hyperthyroid medication she had in her checked bag. Her hands began shaking and she felt ill.
David Poisson and his wife juggled their 4-year-old son and worried about running out of diapers and milk for their 18-month-old daughter.
“[My son] and every kid that age were crying to go home,” said Poisson, a California resident. “It’s heartbreaking to tell a kid we are going in the opposite direction.”
Experienced travellers had some success getting the airlines to pay for hotels or food.
“Others got nothing,’’ Devereaux said. “One passenger only spoke Spanish and was unable to advocate for herself. And others just didn’t know it was an option. Unless they made a really big fuss, they got turned away.”
Devereaux and her friend ended up demanding and getting a hotel voucher. Once they got it, they began spreading the word to others to try and get them.
Finally, around 3 a.m. Sunday, a flight departed for Logan. Passengers said the pilot went on the loudspeaker and told them to “calm down” and to stop calling customer service.
“I was perplexed,’’ Devereaux said. “My friends and I looked at each other because we hadn’t seen anyone lose their cool.”
Devereaux, who eventually made it to Los Angeles, expects a fare refund. She was given two $500 discount codes for future flights — but only on Alaska Airlines.
“We all agreed not to fly Alaska Airlines again,’’ she said of the passengers who have bonded over the ordeal through social media. “Their $1,000 vouchers are useless to all of us.”
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