Passengers frustrated United flight headed to Buffalo diverted over airport closing

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — “He sounded real unsure of himself, but he said we couldn’t land in Buffalo. Basically at that point he just told us the airport was closed,” said Rafeal Suarez, United Airlines passenger.

Rafeal Suarez is one of several passengers who was on United flight 830 from Chicago O’Hare to Buffalo Saturday night. He says the pilot circled around Buffalo for nearly 20 minutes before announcing the runway was closed. The flight was then diverted to Rochester.

“When we got to Rochester they didn’t have a crew at all, they sent their staff home already for the evening. So we had to wait on the plane until their crew arrived,” said Suarez.

Suarez says the flight was supposed to land in Buffalo by midnight.

United Airlines couldn’t tell us when they knew the flight had to be diverted. But tell us in a statement as soon as it was, crews worked to provide customers transportation by trying to line up taxis. Suarez says he didn’t get home until just before 6 am.

“There were probably 70 of us out there just standing for over an hour without a taxi at 3 o’clock in the morning in Rochester,” said Suarez.

“There was a drop in communication somewhere. Somebody dropped the ball,” said Walter Bird, United Airlines passenger.

In a statement the NFTA said in part, “The early Sunday morning scheduled closing at the buffalo international airport was planned and communicated to all airlines involved for the past several months. the closing is part of an ongoing improvement project.”

Passengers say there was also some type of a medical emergency on the plane that also slowed things down.

In a statement United Airlines says the company will be reaching out to customers who were on that flight to provide compensation for the inconvenience.

United Airlines full statement:

“United flight 830 departed approximately one hour late from Chicago O’Hare to Buffalo due to crew positioning. Due to runway closure at Buffalo, the flight diverted to Rochester, where our team immediately worked to provide transportation to customers to get them to their final destinations. Given the late hour of the flight, transportation was delayed. We are reaching out to customers to provide compensation for this inconvenience.”

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) full statement:

“The early Sunday morning scheduled closing at the Buffalo International Airport was planned and communicated to all airlines and parties involved for the past several months. The closings are part of our ongoing runway improvement project that began in early June and is expected to finish in July. Our airport staff works extremely hard coordinating these efforts to avoid any disruption of services. The runway work is critical to maintain the safety of all.”

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