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United passengers spend night in barracks after Chicago-to-London flight diverted

Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Chicago to London say they were made to stay overnight in a barracks at a Canadian military facility Friday after a maintenance problem caused their flight to be diverted.

The flight left O’Hare International Airport Friday and was diverted to Goose Bay, Canada, because of a maintenance issue, United spokeswoman Mary Ryan said in an email Sunday. United is based in Chicago.

Goose Bay, in northeast Canada, is the site of a Royal Canadian Air Force base.

Ryan said customers were accommodated overnight and provided meals before they were flown Saturday to Newark, New Jersey, where they transferred to a London-bound flight that landed Sunday.

“We apologize to our customers for the considerable disruption to their travel plans and will be refunding their tickets to London,” Ryan said.

United Flight 958 was carrying 176 passengers and 11 crew.

The London-based Daily Mail newspaper reported that passengers were given two blankets and slept in uncomfortable beds in an unheated building.

The plane’s crew slept in a hotel, passenger Simon Millward told the paper.

A complaint to the airline via Twitter pointed out the stark contrast in accommodations.

“knock Knock! Who’s there? not the crew because they’re in a hotel while their customers are stranded in a barracks.”

In response, United tweeted: “The crew must rest in order to continue the flight. You can rest on board the aircraft knowing that they are in charge.”

Another passenger tweeted: “Crew arrived looking fresh from their comfy night in a hotel #outrageous”

Lt. Olivier Gallant, public affairs officer for the air force base, told the Sun-Times that passengers were each provided with their own room that contained a toilet.

“Unfortunately there were heating issues for some of the rooms,” said Gallant. It was a cold summer night, he said.

“We were responding [on] very short notice and provided them everything they needed,” he said.

Passengers ate at the military mess hall and had access to a landline phone for long distance calls.

“We provided some pretty good services,” said Gallant, who noted the rooms are usually used by visiting military personnel conducting military exercises.

A bus ferried passengers from the tarmac to the military barracks.

It’s not the first time the military base has hosted stranded commercial airline passengers, he said.

The Canadian Air Force will be sending a bill for services rendered to United, Gallant said.

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