“Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba and a plane full of passengers aboard Virgin America Flight 404 were scheduled for a direct flight from Los Angeles to New York on Saturday – but bad weather turned the trip into a 16-hour nightmare.
Severe winds forced the plane to land at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, located 90 miles north of NYC, instead of JFK, where the plane was stranded for four and half hours on the tarmac.
Carrie Ann Tweeted about the ordeal.
“Was stuck on a plane for five hours on a Tarmac. They ran out of food, a woman was escorted off by police and I’m grateful to new friends… Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Made some new friends despite the crazy situation,” Carrie Ann wrote following the ordeal. “Can’t help mother nature but to leave people on the Tarmac for 5 hours should not be acceptable. People were panicking and they had no food.”
Help came in the form of one of Virgin America’s competitor’s, JetBlue, who operates out of Stewart Airport. JetBlue arranged for the passengers to be taken to JFK by bus.
But Carrie Ann wanted everyone involved in the ordeal to be compensated and she contacted the airline.
“Great news!!! Just got off the phone w/ the CEO of @virginamerica - he’s going to refund everyone for yesterday’s flight. He apologized,” she Tweeted on Sunday. " Thank you Virgin America for restoring my faith in your care for your customers. Everyone gets refunded!!!! Yay!!!!! Thank you”
When contacted by Access Hollywood a rep for the airline cleared up reports that the passengers were trapped on the plane, saying, “Water was provided for guests and guests had the ability to leave the aircraft throughout the hold to enter the airport. Several guests (20 of 126) did in fact leave the aircraft. The aircraft’s lavs were operable throughout the hold and a total of five additional cases of water were delivered to the aircraft. Food was limited and we did run out onboard at about the 2-hour mark, however guests did have the option to leave the plane and enter the airport.”
The rep also said passengers would be refunded and credited.
“Our CEO sent out apology letters to each of the guests on this flight and we refunded everyone for their flight (and provided additional $100 credit files for future travel),” the rep continued.
The “Dancing” judge said later on Tuesday that she hopes to never have to repeat her weekend travel nightmare but was glad to make the best out of the situation.
“The Virgin flight 404 was something I hope to never experience again but that being said I do feel that there are elements in life that are beyond our control. No matter who’s fault the ordeal was the lesson I really learned was that social media and networking is a powerful tool and one that can allow our voices to be heard,” Carrie Ann said in a statement to Access. “David Cush, the CEO of Virgin, did the right thing for all the passengers on board. Since we put our lives in the hands of these airlines every day what we want to know is that they care about us in return. I do hope this kind of situation does not happen again and that they have learned from this ordeal and will have better ways of dealing in the future for all customers. Since the ordeal and the tweets, Virgin America has reached out and extended an offer for a full refund to all passengers and am happy that I was able to be a part of the solution.”