A Puerto Vallarta, Mexico-bound Sunwing Boeing 737-800 en route from Edmonton,Alberta Canada, diverted and made an emergency landing on Sunday March 16, 2014 in Helena Montana after flying through ninety seconds of turbulence.
Two of the six person crew sustained injuries, but none of the 181 passengers were seriously injured, perhaps because the seatbelt lights were on.
Passengers waited hours on the airstrip before a customs agent finally arrived and attended to them. The replacement jet did not arrive for eleven hours.
According to Ron Mercer, Director Helena Regional Airport, the airport has only one customs agent who was not there on Sunday. Another customs agent was called and arrived after a 1.5 hour drive from Great Falls. The airport does not usually host commercial international flights and the customs agent had to “do his homework” and consult international rules before passengers could exit the aircraft.
The situation called for modification in the US customs and immigration department’s emergency protocols, for easing up procedures for those passengers already traumatized due to an emergency situation.
The unexpected delay will no doubt result in consequences because, as CBC News says major Canadian airlines tariff says if “…your flight is delayed more than 90 minutes, you may have the right to get off the plane.”
You can rest assured that after these passengers spent five hours in the plane, someone is going to be paying a hefty fine.