Emergency landing leaves passengers stuck on plane in freezing Canada for 15 hours

Emergency landing leaves passengers stuck on plane in freezing Canada for 15 hours
The temperature was negative-25 with a windchill of negative-65. (WCBS/CNN)

NEWARK, NJ (WCBS/CNN) - More than 200 passengers were stuck at a Canadian airport for 15 hours this weekend.

Freezing temperatures made it impossible for them to de-plane after an emergency landing.

Eithan Magid is one of the frustrated passengers, now back at Newark Airport in New Jersey.

What was supposed to be a 16-hour United Airlines flight to Hong Kong instead became a 27-hour nightmare, which included more than 15 hours stuck on a plane at a small Canadian Air Force base.

"The choice of airport I think was very poor. Since the airport was not equipped to handle 240 people,” Magid said of where the flight diverted.

United Airlines Flight 777 took off Saturday afternoon but was forced to make an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland after a passenger fell ill.

Matt McGuire, among the passengers sitting nearby, said a man was having a seizure.

"When we got to about the Canadian border, a bunch of people were trying to wave over the crew. And they were pointing to him, and he was he was having a seizure at that moment,” McGuire said.

A medical team escorted the man off the plane, but the flight couldn't continue on to Hong Kong. One of the cabin doors had frozen beyond repair.

The temperature was negative-25 with a windchill of negative-65.

And because the flight arrived at night, there were no customs personnel working.

Passengers were forced to spend the night on the plane, with heat, but only light snacks to eat.

Some families had small children.

“It’s been cold. I’ve been hungry,” said Chris Liew, a passenger. “But, you know, otherwise it was, well, it was all right. I think everybody understood there were circumstances that nobody could really control.”

Passengers were told a rescue plane was coming, but they said no one could tell them when.

"Clearly the pilots didn't really know what was going on,” said Alex Forshay, a passenger. “They weren't being given a clear message either."

United Airlines said their alternative aircraft arrived at noon on Sunday, but some passengers who missed meetings or vacations believe the airline had better options.

“There are more solutions, but it's just they're not creative,” said Magid.

Others were more forgiving.

"End of the day, guy got the medical attention he needed so I can’t be upset,” said passenger Liam Keefe.

United Airlines rebooked some passengers and reimbursed others for their inconvenience.

Some passengers, though, said that's not enough, and they plan to take action against the airline.

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