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Dozens trapped in ‘nightmare’ on runway

MINNEAPOLIS — When Link Christin boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Minneapolis on Friday night, he expected to be on the ground in about three hours and ready for a comfy bed.

Instead, he was among 47 passengers who spent the night trapped inside a small airplane, parked at the Rochester, Minn., airport, complete with crying babies and the aroma of over-used toilets.

The ExpressJet Airlines that operated the plane says the flight was diverted to Rochester because of Twin Cities thunderstorms, and that airline regulations prevented passengers from getting off the plane.

Christin is incredulous that the airline couldn’t figure out an option besides trapping passengers on the plane for nine hours.

“This was a sardine can,” said Christin, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn. “It was a nightmare.”

Continental Airlines, which issued the tickets for Flight 2816, referred inquiries to ExpressJet Airlines. ExpressJet spokesperson Kristy Nicholas said the flight ran into several problems.

The airline crew on the plane reached their maximum work hours in the air, so another crew had to be flown in. The alternative of chartering a bus didn’t work out. And letting the passengers into the Rochester airport was not possible because they would have to go through security screening again, and the screeners had gone home for the day.

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