Actor Jeremy Piven Shows Us Why Long Tarmac Delays are Still a Problem – and Why They Aren’t the Airlines’ Fault

We blame the airlines for long tarmac delays, when most of the time the drivers are bad weather and airport constraints or government constraints like security or immigration.

Entourage’s Jeremy Piven flew British Airways from London, headed for New York JFK, but his flight was diverted due to weather to Philadelphia.

He was on BA183, the 8:05pm departure from London, scheduled into New York at 10:45pm.

They wouldn’t let passengers off the plane when it landed in Philadelphia because immigration facilities were closed. He shared the ordeal on Twitter.

Surely forcing passengers to wait until the next morning for immigration to arrive is the wrong answer. And surely that’s not BA’s fault, either. The government will fine airlines for long tarmac delays, but airports need to be part of the solution and immigration and customs need to have contingency plans to open and process passengers when needed.

Since I couldn’t find a ‘safe for work’ Jeremy Piven scene from Entourage worth including, here he is on Seinfeld auditioning to play George in the television series they were casting in the show (sort of a Hamlet moment).

(HT: Raj P.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Any idea why the pilot wouldn’t fly back to JFK. Crew rest issue?

    The weather was great in NYC yesterday, not sure why a diversion would be necessary. Totally agree that diversion airports need to have contingency plans for situations like this to reopen customs as needed.

  2. Piven is currently playing “Mr Selfridge.” Probably why he was in London. Oh, by the way, PHL is a dump.

  3. So without much warning BA drops a plane load of passengers at PHL, expects the airport to handle it, and it’s NOT at fault? That strikes me as odd logic.

    Should the airports have contingency plans for such scenarios? Absolutely. Should the airlines? Yes, and better ones than “land and hope that the airport can handle it.”

  4. One incident shows that delays “aren’t the airlines’ fault”? Some delays are the airline’s fault, some aren’t – can’t imagine it’s really one or the other.

    It is sill immigration doesn’t have anyone on call. But if the Captain had a pair he would have told the airport he was deplaning the passengers in one hour and it’s their problem what to do with them. I recall other incidents where pax were held in a sterile airport area pending immigration.

  5. Regardless of the cause, both BA and Philly airport are wrong here. BA didn’t make an issue about holding passengers on board and the airport didn’t even try to make any accommodation. If I was on this flight, I would be furious. What a waste of these peoples’ time. Sorry, Gary, posting this doesn’t prove any thing. If you are always going to defend the airlines, pick a better scenario! Because in this scenario, everyone lost!

  6. Why the overshoot to PHL instead of landing in EWR where immigration is still open? That too on a clear day. My uncle was on that flight….

  7. Personally I think they can do away with immigration processing, it isn’t as if they have ever stopped any terrorists from entering or any of the thousands that come across the land borders illegally. Just let everyone off the plane. They are all pre-cleared anyway

  8. Boraxo, the passengers *aren’t* all precleared; the UK doesn’t do CBP pre-clearance at any of its airports presently. Gary, the “anything that any government ever does is bad” bit is starting to wear a little thin. We know you work at a Libertarian think tank, so I expect to hear things here and there in this blog that betray that viewpoint, but I for one would welcome a little less Koch brothers with the points and miles posts I read here.

  9. There is no such thing as the “Tarmac” at an airport. There is the apron and the runway. All of which is concrete. There is not any Tarmacadam.

  10. Britt- By “precleared” I do not mean CBP precleared like Canada but rather that the airline has verified that none are on the “do not fly” list and all have valid passports and visas (or the airline would not let them board). Immigration processing is a waste of time.

  11. Happened to me in NRT – somewhat different scenario. UA cancelled a flight (AFTER customs had closed) so passengers had to overnight, NRT OPENED A SPECIAL CUSTOMS LINE TO CLEAR PASSENGERS
    Whether this was that Japan is more efficient or due to NRT not being open 24 hours (at least at the time this happened) I don’t know. But I got to sleep in a hotel and not on the floor 😀

  12. Sorry, Boraxo, but that dog won’t hunt. First, all the airlines can do is ascertain that a person who looks more or less like the picture in the passport is there with a ticket. The passport or visa could be fake OR it could all be real, but the person doesn’t match the document. The airlines aren’t going to be familiar with the look, feel and security measures of every passport. The airlines don’t know if the visa’s valid, but the person has been barred from entering the U.S. for something that won’t get you on the no-fly list (e.g. recent deportation). They don’t know if the traveler has been flagged to go to secondary for, let’s say, suspected drug smuggling. The airlines wouldn’t know if this traveler only hasn’t been put on the no-fly list because we knew he was traveling to the U.S., and the FBI is waiting for him to step off the plane. The airlines don’t know that, although this guy claims to be this 11 year old girl’s dad (who looks really groggy, but it’s super early in the morning, so…), and they have the same last name (and both have valid US visas), that they’re not related at all, and the guy runs a “gentleman’s club” in the DR where this former 6th grade student will soon be “working”. The airlines don’t know that this lady had a good job 6 years ago in Poland when she got her 10 year validity visa, but she’s now been out of work for 18 months, and is coming to New York to start working at hotel cleaning rooms. Or any number of rather commonplace occurrences at US ports of entry. I’ve had my issues with CBP in the past, but someone’s got to be there to process international passengers.

  13. Similar incident happened to me twice. I was on my way to Copenhagen and to Frankfurt. Both times it was due to weather. Both times the immigration and customs were closed since it was past midnight. Both times we waited about less than 90 minute before immigration and customs came back to work and open just for us.

    So for me, I do not understand why US immigration and customs could NOT come back to Philadelphia airport to let these people clear. At least they can go to hotel and sleep or eat food.

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