Passengers sue over being stranded for hours on airplanes

Staff Report

The Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Two passengers who were stranded for hours on American Airlines airplanes diverted during a major storm over North Texas have sued the carrier.

Kate Hanni, of Napa, Calif., and Catherine Ray, of Fayetteville, Ark., accuse the carrier of false imprisonment, fraud and negligence.

Both were on flights diverted from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to Austin on Dec. 29, 2006. After landing, passengers sat in the planes for more than eight hours, unable to leave despite overflowing toilets and little food or water.

American officials said they haven't seen the suits and could not comment.

The lawsuits ask for unspecified damages as well as legal expenses.

Both suits were filed in circuit courts and seek class-action status. They claim the airline's decisions affected 12,000 passengers that day.

The flights were among hundreds diverted when an unusual system of storms snarled traffic over the airport.

The airline says it has worked to improve its system for dealing with severe weather, having installed new software for tracking diverted flights and now permit passengers to leave planes after four hours if safety allows.