Delta Air Lines Crew Claims Ground Staff Trapped Them On Aircraft

On a recent delayed Delta Air Lines flight, it was reported that the cabin crew was prevented from deplaning to avoid a crew timeout. Delta Air Lines disputes the claim, however, this does raise some issues as how the delay was handled. At the end of the event, the crew remained onboard and the flight arrived late in Toronto.

50 years of Airbus - a reflection
A Delta crew was allegedly closed in the aircraft to avoid them deplaning. Photo: Delta News Hub via Flickr

The flight

Huffpost reported that the aircraft operating flight DL1990 from Atlanta to Toronto was delayed due to a maintenance issue. According to the report, the gate agent received the following message:

“Do not open door, flt attendants out of time and none available…let [maintenance] do their work without opening door thanks.”

The issue came down to flight attendant duty hours. If flight attendants were to hit their maximum duty hours, the flight would be canceled due to a lack of availability of crew. Or, the flight would be delayed until the morning when a new crew would be available.

Delta 767
Delta’s operations team were worried about the crew timing out. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Crew time limits

Cabin crew have a certain number of hours they can work in a given time before they reach a voluntary point of deplaning. If the crew times out and chooses to end their day, the flight would need a new crew. In some cases, cabin crew who go above the limit would earn overtime pay. But, with the job already stressful, chances are most people would likely want to deplane.

Delta Cabin Crew
Delta cabin crew. Photo: Delta Air Lines via Flickr

Delta’s statement

Simple Flying reached out to Delta Air Lines for comment. Delta confirmed that it was not their policy to routinely keep cabin doors closed to avoid having flight attendants deplane. The following statement was also provided:

“Operating an airline is a team effort and the guidance shared in this exchange does not reflect the respect and collaboration we expect of our employees when making operational decisions. Delta’s unique culture is built on supporting one another and that didn’t happen in this case. We have followed up directly with the team member involved to address this situation.”

–Delta Air Line’s statement on the situation

In addition, Delta stated that the flight attendants voluntarily continued to work the flight and received overtime pay.

Delta crew
The crew received overtime pay for working the flight. Photo: Delta Air Lines via Flickr


Cabin crew time limits are serious. After all, cabin crew have an important safety role in the sky and, in case of emergency, a tired flight attendant is less likely to be as vigilant as one who is well-rested.

It is unclear what directive was made that led to the messages reported by Huffpost, however, it seems that Delta Air Lines has resolved the situation. On the other hand, this could lead to some questions and changes in flight attendant policies when it comes to handling delays and crew overtime.

Have you been impacted by a crew time out? Let us know in the comments!