American Airlines Stranded Passengers Overnight In The Airport For No Reason, Bermuda Government Says

Monday night I wrote about the American Airlines flight from Miami to London that diverted to Bermuda stranding passengers inside the terminal for 21 hours. The flight went mechanical and crew ran out of duty time while on the ground.

For the first 11 overnight hours of their stay passengers report that they received water and pretzels. American Airlines says this is because of Bermuda’s Covid rules, but the government there says this isn’t true.

  • Bermuda still has Covid-19 entry requirements, so passengers couldn’t just enter and go to hotels (paid for by the airline, or themselves). Crew, though, left the airport and headed to hotels.

  • The government told passengers that American Airlines could have arranged for antigen tests, but did not do so.

The government and airport are coming out forcefully that they – and Covid entry requirements – aren’t responsible for passengers sleeping on the floor in the airport without food.

According to the airport passengers were left there because American couldn’t “find a sufficient number of available hotel rooms to accommodate all” passengers. They

were housed in the international departures lounge of the new terminal as American Airlines officials advised that they were unable to find a sufficient number of available hotel rooms to accommodate all persons from the flight.

The Bermuda government says passengers could have left the airport, but the airline didn’t take the required steps to allow it.

At no time did American Airlines communicate a desire to have its passengers landed to transfer them to a hotel, even if only for the day.

The Port Health team at the Ministry of Health stood ready to administer supervised antigen tests for all passengers – as we have done for passengers on previous diverted flights. However, the airline did not make that decision.

The Ministry of Health’s compliance team also stood by in case a decision was made to allow the passengers to leave the building and stretch their legs in a designated area. Again, no decision was made. We note American’s crew were provided accommodation at a local hotel by the airline.

Bermuda’s Covid-19 regulations did not in any way prevent American Airlines from taking steps to better accommodate its passengers today,”

While not related to the mechanical diversion, need I add that the American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER in question was the roach coach that was out of service for two months at the end of last year due to an insect infestation.

Whenever you fly you should carry snacks. Don’t rely on the airline to feed you. United ran out of food with hours to go on my flight from Sydney in June and that wasn’t an irregular operation. I’ve diverted and sat on the ground for hours. I’ve never been suck in the airport, not allowed to leave overnight, but a few granola bars in your bag and extra waters can never hurt.

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. Could passengers have taken tests on their own and gotten themselves to a hotel, even at their own expense.

    I now also travel with a few rapid tests as well.

  2. Bermuda government and Airport officials should have been at the terminal and informing American Airlines passengers exactly what their rights were. Thus, the passengers could have taken matters into their own hands.

  3. For context, I searched Google Maps for Bermuda, and I can say as someone who prides himself in being pretty literate in geography, I have wrongly assumed Bermuda is in the Caribbean without giving it much thought. I blame the Beach Boys.

  4. Purely devil’s advocate here but… if they had taken covid tests. What then? A flight from Florida with ~300 people? One (it’s Florida, probably 100) of them is bound to have covid. Would Bermuda then make them all isolate due to exposure. I assume so in which case perhaps AA was right.

  5. HI Gary. Thanks for correcting the record on the prior reporting of this story. Hopefully the same vocal commenters will retract their vile comments upon the realization this was totally within American Airlines control. It is total BS that they stated they couldn’t find enough accommodations for the passengers. AA took the easy route to save money and let the passengers wait it out. Shameful.

    The passengers wouldn’t have been allowed to take their own rapid tests but the staff were there to perform this task. AA was on the hook to pay and decided not to. Simple as that. There is food for purchase at the various concessions at the airport and a Priority Pass lounge for those with access. Even those without access could pay the entry fee of $50. But I can see why the passengers feel this was American Airlines responsibility, as it was.

    American could also have contacted the local airport catering company and provided basic sandwiches and drinks. Again, this option wasn’t taken I guess due to cost. I know first hand that this was a possibility. But AA is one of the airlines that serve Bermuda who have decided to only cater from the USA. Delta caters from Bermuda for their return flights. I am sure if this was Delta, this would have been a non story.

  6. Wow Jay
    Who knew you had so much intimate knowledge about Bermuda hotel bookings? Lol
    And unless you work at the AA IOC, You have absolutely no idea what catering was available after flights had left Bermuda. Delta caters at Bermuda because they did their retrofits without enough catering room in the back of the plane to do a trip both ways.
    Seriously… the anger some people have about a maintenance diversion. As someone else mentioned above, if one passengers tested positive, there’s a good chance the whole plane would’ve had to isolate. Or, if not, AA would have people isolating in Bermuda for a week or so for those that did test positive.

  7. Careful with bringing extra “snacks”. A number of countries have strict laws on bringing any kinds of food products in through customs, even processed and packaged.

  8. Jake,
    if you can get the chip off your shoulder long enough to objectively look at the situation:
    whether Delta has galley space on their aircraft to roundtrip food is not the question. The question is that Delta chooses to buy fresh food and has the local catering relationships where it says it will offer food service; doing so undoubtedly costs DL money but it shows up in the quality.

    btw, why did AA flight attendants not manage to feed the passengers while they were on the ground in BDA? There was breakfast on the plane even if they had to take special provisions to have carts in the aisle on the ground.

    Let me tell you two stories about diversions.
    Years ago, AA was operating a DC10 from Europe to DFW that made a scheduled fuel stop at a city in the Midwest (not ORD) in the winter. After refueling, the aircraft taxied to the runway but the crew could not get one of the engines started. There was no airline that serviced the DC10 in that city which did have an international arrivals facility but it wasn’t staffed for a widebody aircraft at that hour. The AA staff tried to radio from the aircraft to their ticket counter as each passenger deplaned to rebook them but the process dragged out for over an hour. There was still a massive line at the AA ticket counter. Nearly all of the passengers ended up spending the night because the process was so long nobody could get any flights out that night on any carrier. I just happened to be at the airport and watched the disaster.

    another time, I was on a DL flight from S. America to the US which diverted to a Caribbean island nation because of a mechanical. It became clear as soon as we landed that plane wasn’t going anywhere and the country wasn’t prepared to let people off the plane because the international arrivals facility was not staffed at that hour so passengers had to remain onboard. The flight attendants served breakfast to the passengers, DL immediately sent a plane from Florida (it was a narrowbody so not of the same classes of service but the plane arrived a little over 2 hours from when we landed which meant they rerouted a crew and an aircraft within minutes of getting the notice of our landing. The replacement aircraft parked at the adjacent gate and we had to transfer from the broken plane to the replacement plane through a sterile corridor. We landed at the hub destination only about 3 hours late where agents were there to reroute us on our connections.

    AA has never done diversions well while DL has it down to a science. There are stories of DL getting replacement off the ground from the US to recover diversions within 2 hours of the diversion. In turn, AA consistenly chooses diversion points where there is no support for the aircraft or passengers and, as the story notes, even if it does exist, AA doesn’t want to pay for it.

    People and companies are not defined by the best but rather how they handle the worst of times.

    An airplane on the ground with passengers in an unplanned city is the worst scenario for an airline.

    Rather than mock that DL’s aircraft can’t round trip food, why don’t you deal w/ the real issue which is that AA has a history of not taking care of their passengers as well as other carriers during IROPS and esp. during diversions?

  9. AA so badly wanted to compete with Spirit, they became them! Spirit arguably has better IROPs these days, and certainly has better IROPs policies (e.g. interline agreements).

    What a world we live in.

  10. What a surprise… Tim Dunn out trolling the comment sections.

    The irony if you saying someone has a chip on their shoulder when you troll the internet daily in search of anything slightly bad said about DL.

    “btw, why did AA flight attendants not manage to feed the passengers while they were on the ground in BDA? There was breakfast on the plane even if they had to take special provisions to have carts in the aisle on the ground.”

    Are you seriously suggesting that after a maintenance issue that the passengers probably didn’t know what it was, that AA should’ve demanded pax remain on the plane so the FAs could roll out a 45 minute breakfast service after they’d just finished dinner in-flight? So then what, the FAs should’ve messed up their crew rest not knowing yet if they’d be going in the morning to Heathrow or kept passengers near where the maintenance folks needed to be? You really write the most ill-thought out comments on the internet.

    Per catering, your answer is just dumb. What fresh food is Delta catering on a 3 hour flight from ATL or JFK and back? Are you suggesting the packaged snacks they sell on those flights is somehow fresher after an ocean freight to Bermuda or that the fruit that isn’t grown in BDA that they might pick up for first class pax is fresher after being sent to BDA from somewhere else? Certainly no one is thinking BDA catered food on a plane is locally sourced. But Delta doesn’t have a relationship with BDA catering for quality. It’s because their planes can’t cater both ways due to Delta purposeful decisions to place two toilets in the back wall of the plane where AA and UA have a full catering set up for their planes that allow for catering both directions. Two other airlines have done that, like delta, with their catering in terms of replacing catering space with two lavs jammed into the back wall: Spirit & Frontier.

    You have no idea if Delta could get catering at around 10pm to 9am (much less at 1am when the plane landed in BDA). We both know they couldn’t because it’s Bermuda and nothing is open when the last pax flight would’ve left hours before the diversion. Plus, Delta has an arrangement with the catering company already, AA doesn’t.

    Per most stories on this topic, AA provided snacks and drinks during the morning then a catered breakfast at noon.

    But per Delta diversion or irregular ops excellence. Calm down, tough guy.

    Three diversions then Delta lands at the wrong DC airport. No evidence of delta even providing taxis to DCA.

    Delta can’t fix a plane and keeps sending it out causing multiple diversions.

    Per a similar instance when hotels weren’t available in atl just like there weren’t enough in BDA — people sleeping in the terminal at ATL with no choice:
    And there are MANY examples like this one at ATL.

    Not to mention the HOURS upon HOURS Delta passengers have uniquely spent on hold with delta due to their multiple meltdowns.

    Tim, stupid dogmatic over-reaching statements about Delta or any other airline make zero sense. It’s not tough to find failures from every airline in recent history, even your beloved Delta. Try to do better.

    There was the potential for the whole plane, or some pax, to quarantine if they’d pushed pax through customs and some had tested positive, apparently there weren’t enough hotel rooms, the 77W landed long after other passenger flights, certainly after the catering companies had done any/all work, AA did provide dinner on the plane maybe two hours before the diversion, snacks/drinks at the terminal during the morning, then a catered breakfast around noon. Then the issue of when the plane took off again, if AA had done a morning flight, then the pax would’ve just been stuck at Heathrow since the plane would’ve arrived after the vast majority of BA connecting flights.

    If others just take a step back, this wasn’t the worst diversion of all time aside from AA apparently (though not confirmed) not providing food during the day.

  11. Hey Jake, as a matter of FACT, I do know what catering is/was available in Bermuda. I do not speak on subject I know nothing about. But obviously you, as many other commenters, don’t seem to have that problem.

    As Tim Dunn said, if you can get the chip off your shoulder and look at the situation objectively. This was screwed up by AA. Many flights divert here and don’t have these issues if managed correctly. The government reached out to American Airlines to accommodate the stranded passengers and were told to go pound sand. So it’s your choice to believe what you want. The facts of the case are clear. As I said before, if it were Delta, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Even if the passengers would have remained in the terminal. Catering would have been provided. I know this for a FACT. AA had the same opportunity but choose not to do so. The only people that suffered were the passengers. Even by their own accounts. I wonder if AA puts you in that position, you’d sing the same tune.

    The catering facility deals with diversions all the time. Civilian and military. For pilots our ICAO designation is TXKF. When aircraft have trouble over the Atlantic ocean we are sometimes the only option. Something that we are well prepared for. You don’t divert to an airport when you are 500 miles out into the Atlantic to one 600 miles away. AA has turned a non story into a story, instead of being held accountable.

    Well said, @Tim Dunn

  12. Jay
    And yet you ignore the most obvious questions posed: what would’ve happened to the plane’s passengers or even a small subset of them if 1-30 tested positive for covid during Bermuda’s mandatory test?

    And per Bermuda catering. Is it available at 1am when the plane landed? No because nothing is open on Bermuda at 1am. AA had a catered breakfast at noon and provided snacks before that. Hard to find fault that aa, with no catering relationship on the island, was able to find catering by noon for 300 passengers. Especially since most catering wasn’t even open much less prepared for a 300 person event.

    You clearly don’t know much about Bermuda catering.

  13. And we get it Jay, you work in catering for delta and somehow think Bermuda catering kitchens are open at 1am… what a silly Uninformed response by a delta employee.

  14. Hey Jake,
    As stated above I only speak to what I know about. If passengers tested positive is a question for the relevant authorities.

    I in fact do know about the catering in Bermuda. Was it available at 1am? NO. But why would the passengers be eating at that time? The plane had just diverted. It could have been arranged earlier than the time they did eventually eat. Seems you are the one who doesn’t know what you are speaking of. I have never seen you at the catering facility. Let me know when your last visit to Bermuda took place, and any relevant facts you have about the catering facilities operations.

    I don’t work for Delta Jake. Another assumption. But I am in a position to tell you what is normally a routine occurrence. You can ask British Airways, which also serves the island and has had flight diversions from time to time. A One World carrier that is catered locally.

    The only uninformed person here is YOU.

  15. Given that it’s pretty much peak tourist season in Bermuda and the biggest hotel on the island (the Fairmont Southampton Princess) is closed for renovations I don’t think there were 300 (or even 100) open hotel rooms on the island. There are only 1800 total hotel rooms in Bermuda right now. I’m not sure that just setting the passengers free to go wander the streets around the airport (which isn’t near anything) would have been much better.

  16. Andrew
    That misses the point. American has not stated that it even bothered to look for rooms. Also, for 300 passengers, not everyone is getting a separate room. There are also AirBnB and VRBO rooms available that the BTA ( Bermuda Tourism Authority) and the government would have worked with American to accommodate the passengers. This avenue was not explored. I am also sure that passengers would not have been allowed to leave without a confirmed reservation. Something that the local AA representatives would have had to be involved in to guarantee payment to the hotels/guest houses/AirBnB’s. The St. Regis has just recently opened. This was a matter of American Airlines pocket book.

    This isn’t the first time a 777 has diverted or had a mechanical this year. Ask British Airways, who cancelled a 777 flight not to long ago due to the pilot breaking his toe. This was just poorly handled by AA.

  17. So Jay
    You agree that catering wasn’t open at 1am. Took you three replies to acknowledge that after suggesting otherwise that aa was somehow not providing catering.

    Full breakfast Catering was provided by aa at noon which is actually impressive given the small size of any potential catering org on the island unlikely to open before 8-9am for 300 passengers and needing to plan to get through security to the international area. Yet aa was wrong because they probably had catering as soon as they get it while also providing packaged snacks and drinks before that?

    Per BA catering, it’s quite different to cater an international widebody for a carrier that routinely flies there on a widebody then comparing that to a 737 from Miami or Charlotte. AA has no reason to utilize Bermuda catering when their galleys are large enough to handle two short flights, unlike delta’s retrofits.

    And per rooms, the airport has said aa told them that and even the airport doesn’t seem to disagree that there weren’t enough Rooms. Where on earth is your issue or even basis for any point? Does aa need to email you a personal note when the info is already out there? And at 1am, you think the Bermuda tourism board is going to start looking for Airbnbs much less that any airline has ever used Airbnb to room their passengers? Lol

    And again, as you state, you don’t know what would’ve happened if 30 pax on that flight of 300 tested positive for covid. Considering all 300 have been together at Miami airport (no masks) in line then on the plane before takeoff, during flight, then at landing then exiting the aircraft.
    Exactly what do you think Bermuda would’ve done about all that exposure for the 300? Most countries require automatic isolation if there an obvious exposure like that so AA’s actions most likely made sure the 300 pax made it to London, at all, vs getting stuck in Bermuda where common sense policy seems long gone.

    I have been to Bermuda, but it doesn’t take me visiting twice/week to realize a sleepy island of 64k people doesn’t have a catering facility open at 1am for no reason or have the ability to magically cater for 300 people out of thin air starting at 2am with no advanced notice.

    Frankly, it’s kind of impressive that aa got full catering there by noon.

    Diversions are no fun, but this anti aa rant from you and tim is just strange.

  18. I know nothing about catering but packaged food could have been gotten from a supermarket and there by 9am, or earlier.

    Epic fail by AA.

  19. Jake,

    Right now your posts are a joke. Defensive of American Airlines at any cost betrays your intentions here.

    But you are welcome to your opinion. Having not been here. Your unfamiliarity with the catering facilities, which you never answered from previous posts speaks volumes.

    The only person here that is sleepy is you. The comment that it is an AA rant is hilarious. It’s your defense of AA that is notable. I guess your only regret is that you were not on the flight.

    One thing for sure you didn’t respond to is how you’d know anything about the catering in Bermuda. I guess we will skip that minor detail with you being based anywhere but Bermuda. Pity how those pesky little details obscure the facts.

    You keep talking about catering at 2am. This was not required. The passengers has just disembarked. What was reasonable and doable was an early breakfast or some form of food and beverage earlier than what the passengers received. Even as just mentioned, packeged food could have been provided. Not sure what part of that is beyond your comprehension.

    They had a USA series that I think is appropriate for the mindset you seem to employ.

    I believe it was called Fantasy Island. Enjoy.

    What is strange is your defense of AA. So we will have to agree to disagree. Until you are in the same position as these passengers. Then we will hear you sing from the rooftops. The facts of this abhorrent case of gross negligence on the part of American Airlines is inexcusable. IMHO

    BTW I am fiercely loyal to AA and the local AA staff. Who do a wonderful job and take care of my travel needs perfectly. This was just a bad decision on their part. They have to own it and do better. This incident could be me or YOU next week/month/year.

  20. Jake

    FYI. The chefs are on site and working hard at 7am. Had the call by AA been made, this time would have been been adjusted accordingly as it has been in the past. You are speaking from a general perspective. Definitely not a local one, or of one with ANY knowledge of the local situation. Unless I have gotten that wrong. But since you haven’t answered about your local knowledge, I’ll assume I am correct.

    The silence is deafening about your specific knowledge of the local catering facilities. I await your response. I’m not sure of your familiarity of any catering facilities at this point…..

  21. @ Jake

    “Exactly what do you think Bermuda would’ve done about all that exposure for the 300? Most countries require automatic isolation if there an obvious exposure like that so AA’s actions most likely made sure the 300 pax made it to London, at all, vs getting stuck in Bermuda where common sense policy seems long gone.”

    How about you park your histrionics and covidiocy and try using a little research and logic?!

    First up, why not spend a few minutes checking Bermuda’s COVID policy. You could access the relevant information in far less time than writing one of your hysterical posts:

    Now, taking that policy as a guide (and summarising):

    – Yes, a positive tested person would need to isolate (typically 7 days)
    – A close contact would be somebody who has been within 6 ft of the positive case for > 15 minutes

    Conclusion: a positively tested passenger would need to isolate in the event that the authorities applied their local COVID policies. On that count Bermuda is applying policy similar to many other countries (although the not the destination country of that flight, the UK).

    Now, let’s consider the close contacts:

    If you use that close contact tool you find out that if you test negative and are vaccinated you do not need to isolate.

    On the other hand, if you are unvaccinated, yes you wold have to quarantine, assuming that the authorities follow their own COVID policy.

    Now, catching and testing a positive to COVID is a risk we all take when we travel, regardless of whether we are in Bermuda, London or Los Angeles. If we are sick, arguably, we should be isolating anyway to limit the impact of the disease, especially on those who are vulnerable and elderly.

    That’s why the prudent traveller has travel insurance covering COVID eventualities and some counties require proof of such.

    Oh yeah – if you tested positive in the USA you would be advised to isolate for 5 days.

    So, your question of whether 300 folk could get stuck in quarantines appears to come down to whether you have a plane load of covidiots, who refused to get vaccinated or not.

    Whatever your personal perceptions of the application of health policy, there is nothing unusual about Bermuda’s own policy, which, incidentally, has been very successful over the course of the pandemic with a mortality rate significantly lower than that of the USA. Ironically, local requirements for incoming travellers are less restrictive than the USA in not requiring a vaccination for arriving passengers, whereas USA does for non residents.

    Your own common sense is long gone, that is, if it ever existed in the first place.

  22. Jay, no one in Bermuda at an Airbnb or 40% of the hotels on the island are answering the phone after midnight. Even if they tried to book each passenger (or family) a room it would have taken 10 hours to do that.

  23. So that’s a god reason for AA not to do anything until the regular staff clicked on at 9am or whenever?

  24. Also, if nothing could be done, they don’t answer the phone, whatever, how come the rew wasn’t sleeping at the sirport snd going hungry.

    Oh, I guess they could go something .

  25. Now watch the taxpayer-funded DOT do … exactly nothing. AA saved a bunch of money and will do the same next time.

    Sadly, this is yet another reason to stay well clear of AA, the worse of the US3 by far. Of course, IRL that’s easier said than doable given the lack of competition.

  26. A few years ago my family flew back to the states from Punta Cana on AA. Smoke was filling the cabin so everybody has to disembark. AA refused to send a different plane but opted to fix it. After waiting all day they told everyone the part needed takes 12 hours to arrive and the engineer is on his way from a different state. It was peak summer travel season and the majority of passengers were families with young children. Punta Cana airport closes at night so by 7pm everybody has retrieve luggage and leave. Only to come back the next morning, go thru security, check bags and wait around all day. This went on for 3 days. It was peak season so only some of the passengers were able to find alt flights home. We did not get any help from AA to find alternate flights other than to put people on any open seats on AA. It took most of us 3 days waiting at the airport, retrieve bags, go thru security, and getting bused to different hotels before we were able to fly home. My wife and children were exhausted. Afterwards, AA offered each of us 10K miles. What a joke. It appears they still have not change the last few years.

  27. Let’s simplify it. Getting rooms in Bermuda at 1AM during peak season for 300 passengers would have been messy if not impossible. I get that. However, not having contingency plans to get these people proper food and catering brought in was egregious and cruel. Not only operations, but where was the Captain and crew in taking some responsibility for their passengers? Oh, they were whisked to a van and hotel. If the captain remained for an hour or two (still well within duty time) he/she could have helped to manage the situation and start working with operations to find solutions. A low tech approach would have done wonders…working with locals to wake up a pizza delivery place and get them to make 150 pizzas as one of many examples. The captain was in a far better position to advocate on passengers behalf with operations than a few local airport staff. Since the blame game is being played, a great deal of it rests on the crew for just abandoning passengers in what I think was both cruel and telling as to the lack of any pride in their jobs. The failure of this incident was not in proper preparation by AA, but a complete breakdown of care in which passengers were left with no one in charge and no advocate there with them. That rests solely on the shoulders of the Captain.

  28. Jake

    As I had stated earlier, hotel beds were available. Just not at a single hotel. As AA was made aware of.

    According to Stephen Todd, the president of the Bermuda Hotel Association, American Airlines representatives did contact two resorts and were told that beds were available — but they failed to make any bookings.

    Mr Todd said: “They did try to reach out to a few of our hotels — Grotto Bay and the Hamilton Princess — but because of our occupancy levels, the passengers wouldn’t have been able to be accommodated in a single hotel.

    “They didn’t get back to us. There was no follow-up. It was the airline’s call and I guess in the end they didn’t make that call.”

    Mr Todd said that one hotel supplied the travellers with 140 towels in an effort to help.

    In addition, I reached out to the head of the catering company. He informed me that an offer to assist American Airlines was declined.

    These are the facts. Total AA failure here.

  29. Mark H- you also are playing the blame game! Bermuda, Bahamas, Key Largo and yes, probably even Kokomo are all in the Atlantic. Back off the Beach Boys, buster!

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