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Romulus — Unhappy passengers waited hours after an overweight Delta Air Lines flight led to a standoff with an airline crew who sought volunteers to take alternative flights.

Delta flight 3702 was scheduled to depart Detroit Metro at 2:15 p.m. for Weschester County, New York, but sat on the tarmac for most of the afternoon.

Passenger Michael Freund, who lives in Israel but was visiting family and friends in the U.S., said the airline crew threatened to “involuntarily remove” people.

He said the crew asked for 10 volunteers to deplane the aircraft and be scheduled for another flight. But when enough passengers didn’t volunteer, a crew member announced “more than once” that the airline would “involuntarily remove” people, Freund said.

Freund said he became concerned about what that meant.

“This a polite way of saying they will drag you off the plane,” Freund said. “How else can one define that term?”

Kate Modolo, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines, said in an email that the plane needed extra fuel due to inclement weather in the northeast which added weight to the aircraft. In order to make “weight adjustments,” she said, Delta needed some passengers to get off the flight. They “volunteered to be reaccommodated on an alternate flight,” she said.

“Involuntary denied boardings are rare given Delta makes every effort to obtain volunteers for reaccommodation on alternate flights,” she said. “The weight and balance of the aircraft is a safety issue and a flight cannot depart if all safety requirements aren’t met.”

Modolo said normally the airline works to ensure any volunteers needed to accommodate flight restrictions are requested prior to boarding.

“This didn’t happen in this case and we apologize,” she added.

Passengers said they sat on the plane for close to three and a half hours before they were asked to get off the plane. Soon after, they were able to reboard. The flight eventually departed Detroit just after 6:30 p.m.

United Airlines came under fire earlier this year when a man was dragged off an overbooked flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Freund said he was disappointed with how the airline handled the delays Friday.

“People are absolutely furious at the way they kept us in the dark,” Freund said. “The way they didn’t let us know what was happening.”

nterry@detroitnews.com

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