Being a passenger on a plane generally requires a good deal of faith in the laws of physics and in the experts who build and operate these jets. But every once in a while, a lay person will see something — like, say, jet fuel leaking out of the wing and onto the tarmac — and that faith can be shaken.
A couple sitting aboard United Airlines flight scheduled to take off Tuesday from Newark Liberty International Airport and fly to Venice, Italy, noticed something a bit odd as they gazed out the window, reports The New York Post: Fuel, gushing from the plane’s wing.
“It was huge — it looked like a fire hose,” said the woman, a newlywed on her way to her honeymoon with her husband, who was already nervous for her first flight abroad.
He ran to let the crew know that something wasn’t right, but said they “yelled” at him and told him to sit down, saying everything was normal.
That is, until staff looked out the window and saw what was going on. The pilot turned the engine off and fire trucks rushed to the plane, the passenger said, and United grounded the flight.
The flight attendant who’d dismissed her husband then thanked him, she says, and the couple was invited to the cockpit for a glass of bubbly, and to show the pilots their footage of the leaky plane — video which she says appeared to rattle them.
At that point, she says United employees told the couple they’d take care of them, and asked them to “go easy” on the airline, you know, if they happened to mention this whole thing on social media.
But the couple claims the rest of their experience was the airline didn’t get any better from there: The woman says she was forced to tears in her struggle to get them another flight to Italy so they wouldn’t miss their cruise.
Once they had booked a flight for Wednesday night on Delta, the airline gave them a food voucher but didn’t provide lodging, so they slept on the floor of baggage claim until 7:30 in the morning, when another passenger with a hotel voucher offered them the room, in thanks for what they’d done by raising the alarm about the leaking plane.
Someone else offered them a ride in a limo to JFK for their next flight, and others kept thanking the couple, the woman says. But they’re surprised United didn’t try harder to make sure everything was okay, especially in light of the airline’s recent public relations problems.
“I will never fly United again,” the woman told the Post.
United didn’t address the couple’s version of the story.
“While taxiing to the runway yesterday evening, United flight 170 traveling from Newark to Venice, Italy returned to the gate due to a fuel leak, and was later cancelled,” the airline said in a statement to the Post, adding that employees helped provide customers with hotel accommodations and worked with them to rebook flights to Italy. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”