A packed American Airlines flight diverted to Rome due to a “medical emergency” onboard. As a result, over 270 passengers were stranded for more than a day. Multiple passengers, however, claim that the reason for diversion was because one flight attendant insisted upon it after a passenger had an accident in which his clothing was soiled. Was such a diversion really justified?
Report: American Airlines Flight Diverts To Rome After Man Soils Himself – Was It Necessary?
First reported by DansDeals, the incident took place on August 2, 2022 onboard AA145, a Boeing 777-200 traveling from Tel Aviv (TLV) to New York (JFK):
- 271 of 273 seats were occupied and 13 crewmembers were onboard
- Passengers noticed their destination had changed to Rome
- Initially, no announcement was made concerning the new destination or asking whether there were any doctors onboard
- 10 minutes before landing, the pilot made an announcement confirming the diversion and noting there was a medical emergency onboard
- No fire department or paramedics met the flight
- According to one alleged passenger, a man had soiled himself
- Rather than isolate the man, the choice was made to divert (one flight attendant insisted upon it, according to the same passenger)
- Flight attendants had been warned before departure that the man was ill, but decided he was fit to fly
- Upon landing in Rome, everyone deplaned
- The crew left immediately, leaving the passengers behind
- Airport staff noted that American Airlines agents were on their way
- After five hours of waiting, during which no food or water was provided, an American Airlines agent met the group
- During this time, the soiled (and potentially contagious) passenger was left with everyone else (again, according to one alleged passenger)
- Passengers were told they would not be rebooked on other flights and AA145 would continue to JFK the following morning
- Airlines agent noted that baggage would be unloaded and busses had been arranged to take the passengers to a hotel
- Several observant passengers asked about Kosher meals during the delay, but the American Airlines agent said she was unable to reach AA’s Kosher caterer in Rome
- As always, a local Chabad chapter came to the rescue and provided food for the stranded guests (AA did provide non-Kosher food)
- Passengers were transported to the Ergife Hotel, reaching it around 10:00am (after arriving in Rome just before 4:00am)
- There, passengers were told their rooms would not be ready until 2:00pm
- Many passengers just slept, but some did use the time to explore the city
- The flight was supposed to leave Rome the following morning at 7:30am
- The hotel told all passengers to assemble at 3:30am to take a bus back to the terminal
- However, when they reached the airport they found the airport deserted, with counters not staffed until 5:00am
- At 8:14am the flight took off for New York
- AA had managed to obtain some Kosher meals, but not enough for everyone
- The flight arrived at JFK at 11:11am, 42 hours after it had departed and 30 hours late
Diversions are rarely fun and this one seems particularly hard, considering the timing of it and the absolutely aggravating waiting time, first for an agent, then for a bus, then for a hotel room.
Let’s assume that the passenger accounts are correct and a man was sick and had some sort of discharge. Was diverting to Rome really the best option? My first thought was grab the man some pajamas and isolate him (since there were two open seats, he could have had his own row). This flight did not have a first class cabin so there were not actually AA pajamas onboard, but I’m sure if he did not have a change of clothes in his carry-on bag, another passenger would have given him something.
There’s some discussion whether the crew had a financial incentive to divert, since they would be paid for the extra time away. It’s not exactly professional that the crew quickly disappeared when the flight landed, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves for several hours. Then again, that’s not in their job description. One passenger claims to have overheard the flight attendants talk about what a horrible biohazard the situation was and that a FA insisted upon landing due to fear of contagion.
But if that was really the concern, why was there no ambulance or paramedic to meet the flight? Why did the sick man also spend the next five hours in close-quarters with the other passengers?
It’s not like the captain or one flight attendant made the decision to divert alone. American Airlines was also involved and a special doctor was likely consulted via telephone in the air. Thus, I don’t make a definitive judgement on the diversion. Perhaps the soiling contaminated a whole row of seats. We are working on incomplete information and American Airlines has not provided additional details, even on background.
The overnight timing of the diversion of AA145 to Rome made this a difficult timeline for the passengers. I think it is fair to discuss, generally at least, whether a man with severe diarrhea or vomit warrants a diversion that burdens 270 other passengers. But without details to the contrary, I am going to trust AA’s decision. It is a shame that passengers had to wait so many hours to get into their hotel room once the plane landed.
image: American Airlines