Buttigieg says DOT is investigating why Delta passengers remained on plane in extreme heat

July 24, 2023

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the department is investigating why Delta Air Lines passengers on flight 555 from Las Vegas to Atlanta on Monday, July 17, remained onboard a plane that sat on the tarmac for hours as temperatures soared above 100 degrees, reports Fox Business.

“The reports are shocking and we are investigating, I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat onboard an aircraft for that long. Even at normal temperatures, a tarmac delay is not supposed to go that long and we have rules about that, which we are actively enforcing right now,” Buttigieg said in a statement to Fox Business on Friday, July 21.

The plane reportedly sat on the tarmac at Harry Reid International Airport for hours on Monday.

During tarmac delays, the Transportation Department says airlines must provide comfortable cabin temperatures and begin moving the plane within three hours of a delayed domestic flight to a location where passengers can exit.

The department said that it would hold the airline accountable for any violations.

Delta said in a statement that it was investigating the cause of the situation.

“We apologize for the experience our customers had on flight 555 from Las Vegas to Atlanta on July 17, which ultimately resulted in a flight cancellation,” the airline said in a statement to Fox Business on July 18. “Delta teams are looking into the circumstances that led to uncomfortable temperatures inside the cabin and we appreciate the efforts of our people and first responders at Harry Reid International.”

Fox News Field Producer Krista Garvin was onboard the flight, which had been taxiing behind more than a dozen others.Passengers were waiting in 111-degree F heat with no air conditioning when the pilot announced the plane had to return to the gate due to multiple emergencies, she said.

Flight attendants were seen running up and down the aisles with oxygen tanks. Multiple passengers had passed out and some had soiled themselves. The pilot instructed passengers to “hit your call button if you’re having a medical emergency.”

A flight attendant and a passenger were transported to a local hospital. 

Passengers were then given a choice to leave the plane, according to Garvin, but were told that if they did, it may take days to get another flight to Atlanta. Many passengers chose to stay on the plane, Garvin said, but temperatures inside began to rise again.

Temperatures at the airport fluctuated between 111 and 115 degrees on Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

After four hours, Garvin said stretchers were wheeled onto the plane, and passengers were asked to disembark back into the airport. The flight was moved to 7 a.m. on Tuesday, but passengers learned it was canceled again. 

Customers also received apologies directly as well as compensation.

Delta said that the time of initial departure until the flight was canceled was just over three hours, but the airline noted the plane did make at least one gate return due to heat-related weight and balance issues.

Delta Air Lines did not immediately respond to Fox Business’ requests for comment on Friday, July 21.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness