A happier landing this time
Here's some from piece about the Rochester International Airport and what happened when more than 300 Sun Country passengers were stranded there after midnight Saturday.
The scene was similar to one in 2009 that turned into a national horror story. But this year's tarmac tale had a very different ending.
More than 300 passengers on four Sun County flights landed in Rochester about midnight on Saturday, after being diverted from the Twin Cities because of bad weather.
In 2009, an Continental flight was forced to land in Rochester about midnight. That flight became a national news story after its 47 passengers were kept cooped up in the plane for more than five hours as a variety of airline employees debated what to do.
The lesson was not lost on the staff at the airport.
"Historically, it is airlines that take care of diverted planes. After that (incident in 2009), we got together and said we're not going to let that happen again," said Kurt Claussen, Rochester's assistant airport manager. "We decided to be proactive. We decided we'll take care of the passengers, and then we'll sort out who pays for what later."
The unexpected landing of four planes Saturday night put the new plan into action.
An airport employee called Claussen, and he was on the scene by about 1 a.m. Airport Manager Steve Leqve, local Transportation Security Administration director Ken Rowe, other airport staff and American Airlines workers also helped deal with the situation.
The 310 passengers, who had been sitting in the airplanes for about an hour, were helped across the runways into the airport terminal. All of the terminal bridge connections were tied up.
With hundreds of stranded travelers milling about the terminal, airport staff members started working on how to feed them.
Claussen thought pizza might be the answer, and he called Papa John's in south Rochester — 10 minutes before the pizza place's 2 a.m. closing time and the end of a 10-hour shift for Shannon Burshem.
"I asked if they could stay open and help us out, and the guy there, Shannon, made an executive decision and said 'sure.' He was great," said Claussen, who ordered 46 pizzas. They were delivered to the airport in several trips over the next couple hours.