Passengers Stuck in Jet on Tarmac for 8 Hours

LOS ANGELES -- Dense fog prompted authorities Monday to divert a Los Angeles-bound TACA International Airlines flight from San Salvador to the Ontario airport, where passengers were kept aboard for hours before the jet was cleared to continue on to LAX.

The Airbus A320 jetliner landed at Ontario International Airport shortly before midnight and remained on the tarmac for about nine hours, an airport official said.

The plane landed at Los Angeles International Airport at 9:19 a.m., said Marshall Lowe of Los Angeles World Airports. No other flights were diverted, he said.

The flight was supposed to have landed at LAX shortly before 11 p.m. Sunday.

LAX's Nancy Castles said that the decision to keep the passengers aboard the plane was made by TACA.

"According to airport and federal officials, the airline chose to keep passengers on board the Airbus 320-100 aircraft because TACA operations staffers stated they intended to resume the flight to LAX as soon as it refueled at Ontario," she said.

She said that "for internal reasons, as the delay grew and the fog remained at LAX, the airline did not request to Customs and Border Protection officials at LAX or at Ontario to deplane their passengers for humanitarian reasons, or that they be processed into the country and bused to LAX by the airline."

The airline also did not allow the passengers to stretch their legs or sit in the terminal, she said.

Castles said that officials at the Ontario airport "have no authority to order an airline's passengers to deplane." But she said that between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. emergency medical technicians responded to reports of passenger illness on the flight. No one was hospitalized, but Ontario airport staff provided water and snacks to the passengers."

Castles also said that "there are two main reasons why aircraft divert to another airport during heavy fog conditions -- either the pilots are not certified to land under such conditions or the aircraft is not equipped for such landings.

The dense fog advisory remained in effect from coastal areas through downtown Los Angeles through 9 a.m.

The fog slowed some traffic on and near major freeways, but there were no major fog-related problems overnight, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Fog at the Los Angeles and San Diego airports Sunday morning caused the Federal Aviation Administration to delay departures from other cities into both airports.

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