CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NBC Charlotte obtained an internal memo from airline management to workers, thanking them for their work during what it calls a "nightmare" on Saturday during a snowstorm.
The memo blames two factors for the four-hour tarmac delays and the hundreds of passengers sleeping in the terminal.
"First, air traffic control failed to post a ground stop early enough to keep airplanes away from CLT, and secondly, CLT airport operations and air traffic control had a communication breakdown relative to deicing and snow removal requirements."
As NBC Charlotte reported, many passengers and airlines workers have suggested the F.A.A. allowed too many planes to land Saturday, but the memo is the first substantive suggestion pointing to the deicing problem Saturday night.
Aviation director Jerry Orr, aviation director at Charlotte Douglas Airport, was at first dismissive when questioned on Wednesday.
“Well, the weather went extremely wrong. We had two inches of snow in about 40 minutes,” he explained.
Saturday night, a Charlotte Douglas spokesperson says 179 planes were deiced between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m. The longest episode took 50 minutes. But Orr told NBC Charlotte that it didn't contribute to the logjam on the runway.
"No sir. If you look at the numbers, the average deicing time is 12 or 13 minutes, with ice on the airplanes, it takes a while."
The city contracts a group to deice planes for U.S. Airways. Up until a few years ago, the airline itself did. Delta and United Airlines still have their own deicing operations.
"It does seem to take a lot longer since the city took over that task,” said one flight attendant, who asked that his name not be used.
“I think it is far more efficient and effective today than it was three years ago,” Orr stated.
The Federal Department of Transportation is investigating Saturday’s tarmac delays in Charlotte because of the reports that passengers were stuck for more than three hours, the federal limit.