No Lights, No Food, No Recline: The 5 Hour American Airlines Flight Where Even The Toilets Were Shut Off

American Airlines reportedly sent a redeye flight from Los Angeles to New York on February 2 without working electrical systems. There was only emergency lighting in the cabin. Flight attendants couldn’t prepare food in the galley of the cross country flight, and business and first class seats didn’t have power so could not recline.

According to a passenger who reported on that they were seated in first class seat 3F, “The cabin exit strips and the emergency light in toilets were illuminated [but] toilets did not flush.”

Cross country flight AA28, scheduled to depart at 10:47 p.m. and land at New York JFK at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, is operated by American’s premium Airbus A321T, a product that is beginning the process of being eliminated. It has coach, business class, and a Flagship First Class seat as well.

American Airlines A321T Flagship First Class

Passengers in Flagship First Class – something no other U.S. airline offers – were given “no food, 1 cocktail.” Flight attendants tried to perform service but their “flashlights were running out of power” as the flight progressed.

But the lack of food even in first and business class, and an inability to recline into the bed that American had promised to customers, was the least of passenger concerns: “Toilets were disgusting people were peeing in the sinks since they drain.” (I imagine those sinks looked like the ones on this Delhi flight.)

American Airlines A321T Business Class

I was somewhat skeptical of the story at first, because the aircraft in question appears to have spent less than two hours on the ground in New York before flying Westbound to Orange County and wasn’t hasn’t spent significant time out of service. However I reached out to American Airlines more than day ago about the incident and haven’t heard back. I will update this post if they respond.

It seems strange to me for American Airlines to make the decision to proceed with the flight without power in the cabin, no meals, no reclining premium seats. Every customer in a premium cabin should get their money back, since they did not receive the product that was sold to them (and if they were in business they they did not just buy “transportation from A to B”).

Delay the flight for a fix, or if not possible in a reasonable time announce to passengers:

  • We need to operate this aircraft to New York
  • As a courtesy we will permit you to travel in your assigned seat
  • However if you opt not to, this is essentially an involuntary denied boarding
  • We will provide you lodging and meals for the night as well as rebooking options

American Airlines A321T At New York JFK

American Airlines has flown New York to Chicago without a lavatory before but passengers knew in advance they’d have to hold it for the duration of the trip. (On a flight to Hawaii, American told passengers to go in a bottle when the lavatories became inoperable.)

On the other hand, an American flight from New York to London turned back when only four of the plane’s 12 lavatories went inoperative on the argument that passengers congregating for the remaining lavatories was becoming a security risk.

Apparently passengers on the Los Angeles – New York redeye did not receive any proactive apology message or compensation from the airline.

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. Welcome to my world, Gary, where AA and UA fans go nuts at the suggestion of anything amiss. And ignore facts including that you specifically said you had not verified the story and reached out to AA that did respond

  2. Sad to report a story to the public without verification. Waited a whole day to hear back from AA, without response, before reporting such a slanderous and absurd story. Such journalistic responsibility!

  3. Literally from the same FlyerTalk thread
    “I was on that flight. Seated in business. After takeoff, I tried to recline. No power at seat. Phone not charging. I was the first one in business to flag down a flight attendant. Said they were working on it. They manually laid my seat down flat. I said I just wanted to sleep. Didn’t need food service. No emergency lighting on. Ordinary overnight blue lights. Toilet worked. Woke up close to NYC and power was working. Flight attendant said that captain fixed it.”
    Good job actually reading beyond the first post Gary

  4. Some people will believe anything they read. Some people are so stupid it’s entertaining, and the evidence is right here on this blog. Endless nonsense.

  5. Non working latrine means yellow water bottles and “tater”sacks, no lights means “zzz”… it’s quite simple .

  6. American is the worst airline in the world.
    I hope every passenger filed a complaint with the FAA!

  7. “GaryDumb” is pretty dumb because that comment quoted from the FlyerTalk thread was quoting from a comment in this post. Hahahahahaha.

  8. Airline captain here. Let’s say everything was fine leaving the gate, and at some point after departure, an electrical problem develops, and some non essential items are inoperative.
    I’m following the FAA approved QRH guidance, but following the SW111 and AS261 accidents, non essential electrical resets don’t happen. Sorry your first class seat won’t recline, or some lights are inoperative, and the IFE is out. Those items are convenience items, and do not warrant an air return or an inflight reset. There’s absolutely no way the toilets were inoperative, that would require a divert if flight time was greater than about an hour or so.

    I hate this website. Lately it’s nothing but petty complaints about individual crew members sitting in your seat you were supposed to get upgraded into, or somebody was having a bad and was rude to ATC.

    You know why we want that first class seat? It’s because often, I’m deadheading to help recover a schedule or bring back a broken airplane, often in the middle of the night. My reservation was most likely made at the last minute, and the only available seats are middle back of the plane seats. The idea of sitting in F is to arrive rested, relaxed, and ready to work. 4B allows me to relax a lot more than 34B.
    Use some common sense and give the crew the benefit of the doubt. They’re not morons.

  9. No Captain would take this airplane across the country like what you said happened. Fake news

  10. My wife and I booked AAmerican first class red eye from LA to Philly on December 21st. Other than a snack and cocktail, no meal or breakfast food was offered. Sad.

  11. Hey @Robert, I was on a 10 hour flight with only one working toilet on a 787-10 on KLM. It happens, should I send you some pics from my flight? We diverted three times, the first because all the toilets stopped working just past England. Then one came back online and the pilot diverts back to LAX. After some strong protest from passengers on how mathematically, it is impossible to service 200+ passengers, the captain diverts again back to AMS. Look up KL 601. Easy to verify on Flightaware.

  12. @gary. You typically have evidence to support your idiodic and horribly inaccurate claims. But this is all hearsay?

    What’s next” passenger didn’t know turbulence caused the plane to bounce and got scared!”

  13. Sounds like a typical red-eye flight. I use the bathroom in the airport before departure so using the one while flying is rarely needed.

Comments are closed.