American Airlines Passengers Stranded Mere Feet From Paradise, Complaining About Lack Of Food

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been telling people they needed to pay attention to Covid-era entry rules not just for their destination – did they need a test? proof of vaccination? could they visit at all? – but also for any connecting points along the way. You don’t want to get stuck in an airport where you can’t enter the country, in case your flight gets cancelled or you miss your connection.

But there’s not a lot you can do when your plane goes mechanical and you’re not allowed into the country. Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to American Airlines flight 38 from Miami to London Heathrow on Sunday evening.

The aircraft was out over the Atlantic when the cockpit decided to divert to the nearest suitable airport. For the Boeing 777-300ER, the largest plane in American’s fleet, that was Bermuda.

However by the time the aircraft was inspected on the ground to determine its airworthiness, the crew had timed out. They were sent to a hotel. Passengers off of the 9 year old jet, registration N724AN, however were not as lucky. Covid restrictions still in place require passengers to have an approved Travel Authorisation to enter the country.

Bermuda no longer requires people to be vaccinated to enter, but they still have a Covid bureaucracy around entry and that meant passengers had to spend the night without leaving the airport.

According to American Airlines,

“American Airlines flight 38, from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR), diverted to Bermuda (BDA) this morning after a possible mechanical issue. The aircraft landed safely at 12:40 a.m. (local time) and taxied to the gate. Customers are now scheduled to re-depart to LHR at 8 p.m. (local time) on a replacement aircraft. We never want to disrupt our customers’ travel plans, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The food available to passengers, at first, appears to have been.. pretzels.

Passengers slept on the floor, but it appears many did have blankets at least.

Breakfast appears to have been provided finally around lunch time.

One passenger reports that the government was prepared to offer Covid testing to allow passengers into the country, but the airline declined. Presumably they would have been the ones having to pay for the tests, otherwise if testing was offered on an individual basis no doubt many of those from the flight would have gladly paid and found their own accommodations.

The passengers of American Airlines flight AA38 are expected to get on a plane and try again to fly to Bermuda after about 20 hours in the airport.

Restrictions could have made sense for a small country with limited health care capacity to preserve ICU beds. It could have made sense in a country aiming towards Covid Zero when that was still possible. But when vaccinations are no longer even required, and antigen tests (not even PCR!) are accepted, it’s not even clear what they’re trying to accomplish.

The 7 day moving average of cases in Bermuda at this point is in the teens, the most widespread variants of the virus seem to produce less severe outcomes, and between vaccination and widespread prior infection, population-level immunity is high. Bermuda’s policies seem antiquated at this point, though of course U.S. entry rules are byzantine as well.

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. Shame on AA but shame also on Bermuda for cruelly maintaining and enforcing pointless rules that tormented these innocent people.

  2. The US needs to start sanctioning the governments of these countries that are continuing this charade. They can start by barring all citizens of these countries from US entry. NO exceptions…..Just like they treated the American citizens aboard that flight.

  3. I think it’s a good point about being aware of requirements at transit locations, but how could people flying from Miami to London have known they needed to be aware of Bermuda’s requirements? The Bermudans were willing to give the tests on the spot, but AA refused, from what I see here. AA gets 95% of the blame, and the “apologize for any inconvenience” line is OK for a minor delay, but thoroughly inadequate here.

  4. Oh great. The flight I’ll be taking this week.

    But wait, Priority Pass has a lounge there. I’m good, in the event of emergency. Hehehehe.

  5. The Covidiots have always been those that see the virus behind every tree and still wear masks.

    The world laughing at you.

  6. Bermuda must be doing something right if “The 7 day moving average of cases in Bermuda at this point is in the teens”.

    Unbelievable that AA refused to arrange Covid tests and suitable accommodation. Is there a manager at AA responsible for looking after passengers at irrops? They should be fired

  7. Also helps to mention that one report said the plane had been partially dismantled inside to find the source of the fire alarm.

  8. AA should have sent 2 737s from NYC, CLT or MIA the minute they got word that the passengers could not disembark. AA does serve BDA so it is hard to believe that their station management did not immediately know what was at stake.
    If AA had put planes and crews on standby the minute they got word of the diversion, they could have had the people back on US soil by early morning.

    If it was necessary to cancel a flight in the US in order to get these people off of BDA, AA should have done it.

  9. I blame Bermuda for this one. As an airline pilot and BDA as an alternate for many of my routes to the islands, I am glad to learn this and will communicate it with my company. What an awful situation to be in.

  10. @ Gary — People are spoiled. They act as if they will die if they cant eat for 11 hours. Give me a break. I have enough extra “food” around the middle, that I’m sure I could go for 11 days with just water. If you aren’t willing to take the risk of such things happening, stay home.

  11. AA’s stellar customer service rears its head again.

    But really, with air demand as high as it is it makes total sense why AA wouldn’t care about one flight. There will be hundreds of others willing to fill those seats

  12. @ Tim Dunnk – agree with you 100% – AA should have immediately sent smaller jets and cancels flights if necessary.

  13. I feel for the passengers. I am curious whether they could have entered had they happened to carry an emed test, get it proctored online at the airport, and then upload the results to the app, or do whatever else the procedures are for this.

  14. American Airlines is obviously run by idiots, all the way down the line. Denying tests is utterly ridiculous … and there’s no question it was for monetary reasons. Disgusting. Then to do NOTHING ELSE, just send the crew to a hotel and forget all about the pax. The airport could have done a far better job getting these people some food and drink but they’re not going to move either, without some prodding.

  15. American Airlines customer service is out of control and something needs to be done ASAP! I spent $958 on a ticket in August and was stranded overnight at Liguardi Airport and had no food or drink except the snack from the plane and water from the fountain. It was all AA doing and I laid on the nasty freezing cold concrete floor all night. If I had not taken it upon myself to get to my final destination which was home to Wilmington, I would have been stuck there for 2 days. With no sleep, i waited for AA customer service to open at 4am and waited in line for 2hrs to try and get the next flight out only to have AA misreport it by saying it was canceled even though it was not. I waited for the flight and got on standby and was not taking no for an answer. Turns out there were 7 standbys, i got on and there was at least 1 empty seat that I saw. If i had not been on that flight, i would not have gotten home until the next evening. Because AA claimed weather difficulties, they did not offer any form of overnight accommodations or refreshments and they cancelled the flight around 11pm so everything in the airport was closed. I WILL NEVER FLY AA AGAIN! i paid good money for a service and it was very poor customer service from a majority of the employees. I WILL NEVER FLY INTO NEW YORK AGAIN as they were the rudest people i have ever encounted at an airport. Good Luck AA as your business is failing and it used to be my airline of choice.

  16. I type this as I’m stuck overnighting in Dallas.

    What a bunch of whiney bitches. Oh noes! 8 hrs and only pretzels and soda pops! The horrors. I’m surprised AA didn’t shove bamboo splints up their fingernails! /Rolleyes

    This instance should be immortalized as (stupid) first world problems.

    Maybe be a tiny bit appreciative to aa and Bermuda for getting them on the ground safely after a declared emergency, and then on their way with minimal delay

  17. @ Gary

    Yes, you need a Travel Authority to enter Bermuda….however…

    “Bermuda no longer requires people to be vaccinated to enter, but they still have a Covid bureaucracy around entry and that meant passengers had to spend the night without leaving the airport”

    So…firstly, some context – since Bermuda has dropped the vaccination recruitment, their policy is now LESS RESTRICTIVE than that of the USA, which demands non residents to prove their vaccination status.

    Some of the triggered posters above might or might not have the mental capacity to process that irony.

    And…if you read the tweets you yourself cited, the Bermudan authorities WERE AVAILABLE to administer the required tests…and…it is claimed, had done so previously on similar occasions.

    Your claim that the night in the airport was necessarily due to the local COVID protocols is thereby questionable, even if alleged by AA, which then begs the question of the accuracy of the airline’s claims and efficacy of the airline’s actions.

    But, hey, buddy, a nice spin to stir up the usual brainless mob.

    And whatever the medically uninformed opinions of Gary Leff M.D., Bermuda appears to have done an outstanding job at managing the pandemic.

    Mate, you’re gonna need a ever bigger pile of shit to stir.

  18. @ SMR

    “I blame Bermuda for this one. As an airline pilot and BDA as an alternate for many of my routes to the islands, I am glad to learn this and will communicate it with my company”

    Mate, if your post captures the level of your critical abilities, please do let us know what airline to avoid.

  19. I still don’t understand why air crew weren’t held to the COVID stuff during the whole pandemic. No tests needed for entry at all…yet I had to when I went to Canada for work last I was deemed an essential worker. I get the whole “without the crew, no one flys”, but still doesn’t make sense. Also, I get the crew timed out, but not when they left for the hotel (roughly 5 hours). There’s always a reserve pilot on these flights. Way to show support for your customers…

  20. This is a ridiculous way to treat paying customers. I am glad at least one customer had enough overweight and a working pancreas so it didn’t bother him. He obviously also wasn’t travelling with children. American Airlines travel has become extreme adventure travel where you need to bring food and camping gear. Be ready to rough it.

  21. Shame on American Airlines. They should have taken the offer to have passengers tested for COVID. They just didn’t want to pay for accomodations in Bermuda for 300 passengers. It would’ve cost around 300 USD a night, per room.

  22. Why are they “freezing”. It’s August and they are in Bermuda which last I checked wasn’t near the north pole. Sounds like someone is exaggerating. By the way – gasp, when you eat dinner at 6pm and then breakfast at 8am, you have 14 hrs of no food overnight. Gasp! I survive it every day …

  23. Many of you fail to realize AA already has a shortage of flight crews, so sending a back up plane or two was far and beyond. If you don’t respect the laws of other countries, even if that was not your planned destination, then stay home. However the article mentions that the government there was willing to give out the test and AA did not want to pay for it, so are they supposed to give them for free? Rule of thumb for you new travelers: Always carry your passport with you even if you’re flying domestic, when going internationally get a rapid test just in case, because this is not the first time something like this happened. Diversions happens all the time and you never know.

  24. This is not AA’s fault. This is Bermuda’s fault. They could have arranged hotel space or at least some sort of aid in this emergency situation. Those saying that AA should have sent 737s are also foolish. Why? So they could take them to NYC? What would these people do if they had an emergency landing in Goose Bay or in the ocean? Crazy. They are lucky to be alive under the circumstances.

  25. Definitely the fault ls with AA here. As stated, those passengers would have been allowed entry with a rapid antigen test as the authorities stood by for AA to confirm. Unlike other countries like Japan who’s borders are effectively closed. Such a shame as everyone in the hospitality industry would have benefited with the exception of American Airlines pocket book.

    Those above stating that is was Bermuda’s fault are clueless. Look before you leap and ascertain all the relevant facts. This was purely an AA decision to save money. American Airlines DECIDED not to allow passengers to leave the terminal. Simple as that.

    Well stated @platy

  26. Another 1st world problem being treated as if these people’s lives were at stake. It happens. No need to lose our heads over this my fellow commenters.

  27. Jay,
    What’s got you so hot & bothered? You act like you’re mortally wounded by the entire blame not being on aa? Bermuda has a stupid covid policy. As mentioned in the other thread, if those passengers had tested positive to leave the terminal, what then? Is the whole plane quarantined for exposure? Are 30 people just left on Bermuda?

    You have no idea about the hotel availability in Bermuda for 300 people.

    If Bermuda insists on stupid covid policies, good for them, but it’s not AA’s fault or desire to quarantine 300 people over bad policy.
    Honestly, what would the Bermuda authorities have done if 1 or 30 pax tested positive? Everyone on that plane was theoretically exposed in some way.

  28. Hey Jake,
    I could ask you the same thing. Why are you so uptight about AA being absolved of any blame? The fact of the matter is Bermuda was willing to let the passengers in. As stated before I do not know what happens if some tests positive. But do the rest have to suffer because of that? I think not. You speak of people being in flight together like if you were positive I’d catch it right away. Obviously you are speaking in hypotheticals which can be endless. If you don’t like the policy, don’t come, don’t divert and you should be good bro.

    As for your assumption about hotel availability, how is it that you know? Just curious. Even AA hasn’t stated that the reason they did not allow passengers to leave the airport was due to a lack of hotel space.

    Even if as you say, every passenger was exposed, the incubation period for Covid isn’t 4 hours into a flight. Apologize for AA if you must, but we all can smell what you are shoveling.

    At the most basic level, AA could have contacted the catering facility and had soup and sandwiches served at breakfast. Well before they did eventually eat and mitigated some of the criticism. But have it your way. Obviously you are the expert here.

  29. You could learn a thing or two about contract tracing and positive tests. I agree no one in the plane would get it immediately, but if someone had the plane had tested positive, it’s very likely that Bermuda would’ve required the whole plane to quarantine given obvious exposure.

    And aa did say that about hotel availability. You’re the one out there saying there was availability when it’s been stated by the airline that there wasn’t.

  30. Jake
    That is totally incorrect. They would not have required the whole plane to quarantine. But I guess you are the expert on contact tracing and positive tests now too. Oh, and Bermuda policy.

    Yup. I did say that there was availability. This isn’t our first rodeo. 777’s have diverted before and accommodations are found. Period. At the very worse, god forbid, they could have been housed in Hamilton Princess conference room with military cots and blankets. Not that it would have even remotely gotten that bad. LOL

  31. Right… a country that still requires a covid test before you arrive, then a test for unvaccinated travelers a few days after landing is just going to ignore exposure for an entire plane of people and let them wander around the island…?
    You’re trying so hard to defend a silly position.
    And this stupid idea that you alone know full hotel availability at 1am in peak tourist season… lol
    Thanks for the amusement.

  32. Seems a bit one sided. Bermuda bad. AA great. If this was pre CK, you would have been all over AA’s lack of customer service.

  33. American Airlines once was a good airline. This demonstrates how terrible they have become. I am avoiding flying them and Bermuda has become a place I will never go to.

  34. Cris ,why USA need to sanctioning this gobernant?you guys think you own the planet ?no wonder no body like you guys ,agly arrogants

  35. Bermuda has a standard, like it or not. These same people blaming them likely have no issue with people from other countries being subjected to U.S. rules. The plotline that matters most is Bermuda tried to offer solutions and AA balked. That is what people need to focus on: The carrier declined any and all opportunities for passenger relief. These airlines continue to increase fees and costs while dropping quality. If their margin is so razor thin they cannot provide accommodation in incidents like this, they do not deserve to exist.

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