Allegiant passengers stuck in Knoxville for 8+ hours with little info why

By: Brian Gregory, Asst. News Director Email
By: Brian Gregory, Asst. News Director Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WVLT) What began as a post-Christmas trip for some Florida-bound fliers turned out to be a bit of a travel nightmare.

They were stuck at McGhee Tyson Airport for eight hours, and they say they couldn't get much of any word on why.

Mary Holness, of Knoxville, called Volunteer TV News around 3:30 to report her concerns. She told us that she was with her daughter who was flying as an unaccompanied minor on Allegiant flight 838 to St. Petersburg.

Holness said the plane was supposed to take off at 10:05 a.m. But the departure time came and went with no plane, and she says worse yet, no information from the crew at the gate.

Holness says she first heard the plane was diverted to Sarasota shortly after takeoff.

According to FlightAware.com, the Allegiant Air jet that would carry passengers as Flight 838 was headed to Knoxville from St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport around 8 a.m. this morning when it was diverted to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Allegiant Air spokesperson Tyri Squyres says the plane was diverted because of a mechanical problem.

Squyres says the plane was repaired by mechanics on the ground, and just as the plane was getting set to taxi back to the runway, there was an accident at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport and the airport was shut down.

The Bradenton Tribune reports a small Mooney aircraft slid off the runway just before 1 pm. Two people were injured.

Squyres says the accident forced the closure of the airport for about two hours.

The flight finally took off for Knoxville around 4 p.m.

Holness told Volunteer TV News, she did hear about the accident Wednesday afternoon, but still had very little communication from crews working the gate in Knoxville about whether or not the plane would ever arrive in Knoxville to take them to Florida.

"I do believe communication from the airline itself would have been a lot less stressful," Holness said. "Delivering pizza to us about twelve o'clock was not a resolution to the problem, when all we were looking for was an update to where was our flight."

Brittany Starr also agreed, but was concerned for the gate agent, a contract employee, who was working the Allegiant flight.

"The guy at the counter was just crouched down saying 'Please God, send me some help,'" Starr said.

But Squyres said Allegiant never really had much information to pass along to the passengers. She says because the airport was closed in Sarasota, Allegiant dispatchers had no idea when the plane would be allowed to take off for Knoxville.

And, she says, the airline did not want to give out false information to their passengers.

The Allegiant airplane finally arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport just before 5:30 p.m.

It finally left for St. Petersburg at 6:45 p.m. and was scheduled to arrive around 8:15 p.m.

Holness says she was glad her daughter was on her way, finally, but wished for better communication next time.


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