"We could see a lot of the planes that we drove past had a lot of icicles and all of the taxiways were extremely icy," said Mark Rowe who was on a full flight into RDU from Cincinnati. He says they landed about 9:45 p.m. but could not get off their plane because there were no open gates. And so they sat, for about two and a half hours.
"From what I understood from the pilot, there were a number of flights that were set to take off and then had trouble de-icing. And they had to return to their gates as well," said Rowe.
Passengers on another flight, American Airlines Flight 4448, say they were trapped on their flight for four hours, which would be against the three hour limit. But American Airlines says that's not what happened.
Stephanie France with American Airlines said the plane was on the tarmac for 2 hours, 21 minutes (with the door closed). She said the plane could have been at the gate with the door open for a longer period of time, but that doesn't count, (the door must be closed). The delay was due to the fact that the plane (and others) had to be de-iced, then there was a ground stop at LaGuardia for snow removal. Then, the crew "timed out" and couldn't fly anymore.
That flight ended up taking off at 8 a.m. Saturday .
Either way, passengers like Rowe say they thought there would be more of a plan in place for that icy weather.
"This was a weather event that was coming for a few days, I knew about it in California when I was there. I know Wake County schools closed early so I think there could have been better prepared," said Rowe.
He says he flies about 100,000 miles per year, and has for over 10 years and this was the worst travel experience during a storm he's ever had.
RDU spokesperson Mindy Hamlin sent this statement: "During significant weather events, particularly ice and snow, the number one priority for RDU and the airlines is passenger safety, and we work very closely with the airlines to ensure aircraft do not have to wait on the runway or taxiway for extended periods of time. During the recent ice and snow event, the Airport Authority closely monitored aircraft arrivals and departures. Deicing of aircraft, which is required during these types of events, adds time to a flight's scheduled departure and can cause delays to other departing flights, as well as arrivals. RDU has a ramp control tower and airport operations staff who ensure that aircraft do not exceed the three hour limit set by the FAA. Our records show that no aircraft at RDU had to wait longer than two hours to either arrive at its gate or depart. It is also important to note that, if needed, RDU has plenty of gates to which airlines can deplane passengers, if the airline chooses. If you have further questions about a particular flight, I recommend you contact the airline."