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Was this a weather related diversion or an AA technical failure?

Was this a weather related diversion or an AA technical failure?

 
Old Aug 9, 13, 6:24 am
  #1  
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Was this a weather related diversion or an AA technical failure?

Flew yesterday afternoon from MIA up to LGA.

At boarding time we were advised that due to weather, causing heavy volume in LGA arrivals, we would be delayed 30 to 45 minutes for take-off. On the radio (NY News Radio 88), they were reporting 90 minute to 2 hour arrival delays.

We finally took off, and about 2 hours into the 2 hour 30 minute flight the pilot came on and said we were going to be diverted to BDL (Hartford), as we would not have enough fuel to enter the holding pattern. We diverted to Hartford, fueled and left again in less than an hour for the quick 25 minute flight to LGA. In the end we got in around 2 1/2 hours late.

So that is the background. In my opinion this was a "technical" delay versus a weather delay. I feel this way because the airline knew the weather conditions, knew the airport conditions and still chose to send us with the minimal fuel they felt was correct. Now the vast majority of time, this makes sense as it saves money. However, in this case, they gambled wrong, my trip suffered and I feel that part of taking the gamble for the airline was the possibility that a plane load of passengers would suffer. And when that happens, the airline should compensate us in some form.

I am curious to hear from others opinions in a non-flame manner. No, I have not filed a complaint nor requested anything.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 6:31 am
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1. It doesn't make any difference on a US domestic flight unless you happened to misconnect and the issue of whether you are due a coupon for a hotel arises. Thus, not worth giving a moments thought.

2. It's extraordinarily unlikely that AA knew of the ATC holds at the time the aircraft pushed or it would have loaded more fuel. As a business proposition, it costs a whole lot more to divert the aircraft, causing an entire extra rotation and disrupting ops downstream, than it does to load the fuel. Put bluntly, why would any sane business cause itself a loss if it could avoid it? And, as further "proof", if ATC knew of the holds on arrival, it would have held the aircraft on the ground at MIA for longer.

3. This goes on the books as an ATC delay. Clearly so.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 6:34 am
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Was this a weather related diversion or an AA technical failure

IMO, stuff happens and this is a case of that. one knows evident facts but one doesn't know other things that may have altered the plan. Bottom line, there were delays and you arrived in a time consistent with them. that you went to BDL seems irrelevant.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 7:36 am
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post

I am curious to hear from others opinions in a non-flame manner. No, I have not filed a complaint nor requested anything.
Boy does this bring back bad memories. I call it bad planning on the part of AA. Have to add our story. It was worse, in the end.

We were in LIM, going to CUZ for a train to Lake Titicaca. Well, "weather" caused problems with that, and a tight connection to the train anyway. Strike 1.

Then we were just going to fly to JUL (Juliaca) and Lake Titicaca. Got on a flight that was going Lima->Arequipa->Juliaca. Took off, no problem. Well, it seems that there was too much fog in Arequipa, so they couldn't land. But weather in Juliaca is OK, right? Yes. But we don't have enough fuel to go to Juliaca and then back to Lima...so we just went back to Lima.

End of the story - called AA to just head home a couple of days early No change fees, and SWUs preserved. Good on AA, bad on LAN.

So, I don't consider this weather. But I do think that "technical" is a good description.

Even if you were inclined to ask for anything (and I know you're not), it would be unlikely because "weather" was in there somewhere. But I agree with you.

Cheers.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 7:42 am
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The problem here is the aircraft was fueled for the route and for diversions, as well as with a reserve. If Dispatch had called the aircraft and held it for fueling, you'd still have been delayed. If ATC had given a more direct routing you might have made it, but weather dictated other terms.

In the end, it doesn't matter what we call it - AA will cry "force majeure! weather!" because that's the root cause and all you can do is to complain and try for some compensation - it's best to read the compensation thread for guidelines.

Originally Posted by AA CofC
FORCE MAJEURE EVENTS
American may, in the event of a force majeure event, without notice, cancel, terminate, divert, postpone or delay any flight or the right of carriage or reservation of traffic accommodations without liability except to issue an involuntary refund. The involuntary refund will be made in the original form of payment in accordance with involuntary refund rules for any unused portion of the ticket. American will also reserve the right to determine if any departure or landing should be made without any liability except the afore mentioned involuntary refund.

Force Majeure Event Means:
  • Any condition beyond American's control including, but without limitation, meteorological conditions, acts of God, riots, civil commotion, embargoes, wars, hostilities, disturbances or unsettled international conditions - actual threatened or reported. Also, because of any delay, demand, circumstances or requirement due, directly or indirectly to such conditions, or
  • Any strike, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting American's service, or
  • Any government regulation, demand or requirement, or
  • Any shortage of labor, fuel or facilities of American or others, or
  • Any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by American.
In the EU, with greater regulation, these issues are covered; in the US, the airlines lobby heavily to prevent this from happening. Whether or not either is best is a discussion not suited for this forum; it is what it is, that's what we deal with here on FT. (But, don't we wish we had an all-purpose excuse we could use? "Sorry, it was a force majeure event!")

Last edited by JDiver; Aug 9, 13 at 10:16 am
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Old Aug 9, 13, 8:27 am
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
Flew yesterday afternoon from MIA up to LGA.

At boarding time we were advised that due to weather, causing heavy volume in LGA arrivals, we would be delayed 30 to 45 minutes for take-off. On the radio (NY News Radio 88), they were reporting 90 minute to 2 hour arrival delays.

We finally took off, and about 2 hours into the 2 hour 30 minute flight the pilot came on and said we were going to be diverted to BDL (Hartford), as we would not have enough fuel to enter the holding pattern. We diverted to Hartford, fueled and left again in less than an hour for the quick 25 minute flight to LGA. In the end we got in around 2 1/2 hours late.

So that is the background. In my opinion this was a "technical" delay versus a weather delay. I feel this way because the airline knew the weather conditions, knew the airport conditions and still chose to send us with the minimal fuel they felt was correct. Now the vast majority of time, this makes sense as it saves money. However, in this case, they gambled wrong, my trip suffered and I feel that part of taking the gamble for the airline was the possibility that a plane load of passengers would suffer. And when that happens, the airline should compensate us in some form.

I am curious to hear from others opinions in a non-flame manner. No, I have not filed a complaint nor requested anything.
It's entirely possible that when your pilot was cleared to go by LGA (it's not up to the airline when there is weather in the area-it's up to local ATC & typically you don't go until ATC gives your plane a landing slot), it was w/the intent to go straight in. However, that's a several hour flight & it's absolutely possible the weather changed while you were enroute forcing ATC to slow down arrivals even more. Hence you ended up circling. I've had this happen several times this summer going DFW-EWR. There is just too much traffic up there on a good day-add in weather, & there's been a lot of that, & you're lucky if all that happens is that you get delayed.

As my boss loves to say, 'when you travel, it happens'.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 8:39 am
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Most US airlines have reverted to a 5% fuel reserve vs. what I believe was 10% to save the extra weight. It sounds like they ran short due to this.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 8:44 am
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Originally Posted by txrus View Post
As my boss loves to say, 'when you travel, it happens'.
I think you left a couple of letters out...

Agree... There is no reason they would have any plans to divert the plane and most likely, they lost money on that particular flight even if it was full of full fare folks... A lot can happen in even a few minutes. I don't see this as a legit complaint. Besides... I would be happy you are still here to tell this story...
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Old Aug 9, 13, 9:11 am
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Suggesting that AA would willingly take a diversion is absurd. The costs for AA are huge - an extra cycle on the airplane, crew costs, dealing with misconnects at LGA, landing fees, extortionate fuel costs, etc.

On the other hand if AA were to hold all inbound LGA flights whenever there was a bit of weather in the area we would have pages of "OMG AA WOULDN'T TAKE OFF FROM XXX EVEN THOUGH IT WAS SUNNY IN LGA". ATC isn't going to let AA intentionally hold traffic back and then dump several hours of flights all at once so the most likely scenario would be just canceling the flight. I mean that's better than a 2.5hour delay, right?

I've had my share of diversions. During all the freak summer rain in Texas up through the middle of July I had no less than 6, all on DFW-IAH, IAH-DFW, or ORD-IAH segments. One of those 6 was actually a double - ORD-(sat)-(storm #2)-(back to aus)-IAH. My SO left DFW for LHR at about the same time and arrived DFW-LHR before I arrived ORD-IAH. That was super fun.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 9:16 am
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Originally Posted by DillMan View Post
Suggesting that AA would willingly take a diversion is absurd. The costs for AA are huge - an extra cycle on the airplane, crew costs, dealing with misconnects at LGA, landing fees, extortionate fuel costs, etc.
Maybe I missed it - who suggested that this was done "willingly?" The question was whether this should have been anticipated based on available weather and ATC information and planned for. Nothing to do with "willingness."

Cheers.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 10:08 am
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Originally Posted by brp View Post
Maybe I missed it - who suggested that this was done "willingly?" The question was whether this should have been anticipated based on available weather and ATC information and planned for. Nothing to do with "willingness."

Cheers.
This was clearly a weather related issue.
Had there not been a weather problem, the stop would have not been needed.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 10:18 am
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Originally Posted by mvoight View Post
This was clearly a weather related issue.
Had there not been a weather problem, the stop would have not been needed.
And, had they prepared for the weather issues (provided that they were known prior to departure - and that is certainly a wildcard), the stop could have been avoided.

Cheers.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 10:19 am
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In any case, to add, pilots HATE to take diversions unless it's absolutely necessary (preserving life is a good reason). The airline loses an aircraft from the flights schedule and Dispatch has to fill holes; it costs fuel, landing fees, passenger displacement; the crew may get timed out in the worst of circumstances; the crew is delayed from their plans - ongoing flight, commute home, rest; it really WAS force majeure (the one size fits all excuse works with weather - we can't control that).

The dance between scheduling, System Operations Control/Flight Dispatch Office, crew, ATC, weather, fueling, de-icing when added to the mix, airlines all wanting to depart / arrive at certain node / tranche times - it's if anything more complex than it was years ago - more aircraft, greater aircraft density (the "New York triangle" is infamous) and mode RJs, each requiring as much resource as the largest jet.

Originally Posted by mvoight View Post
This was clearly a weather related issue.
Had there not been a weather problem, the stop would have not been needed.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 10:28 am
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Originally Posted by idainc View Post
Most US airlines have reverted to a 5% fuel reserve vs. what I believe was 10% to save the extra weight. It sounds like they ran short due to this.
I believe you're referring to AA's decision and approved by the FAA (and copied by other airlines) in May, 2004, to fly to/from Europe with a 5% reserve instead of 10%, and I don't think that was a factor here. Not between MIA and LGA.

For domestic flights, I believe that airlines must plan on an extra 45 minutes. AA's pilots, in 2003, were carrying enough fuel for an extra 99 minutes and AA was proud that reducing that huge cushion to an average of 90 minutes in 2004 (double the FAA requirement) would save approximately $19 million per year. And that was with $40/bbl oil.

Why were AA's pilots wastefully carrying so much extra fuel in 2003? Nobody knows for sure, but a few years before that, fuel was extremely cheap and that ridiculously large cushion didn't really matter.

By 2003-04, fuel was climbing, AA was losing billions of dollars, and in May, 2003, its pilots became very, very angry with management. Hmmmm. Pilots have the final say on how much fuel their planes carry, and all management and the dispatchers can do is debate, cajole and attempt to persuade the pilots to reduce such wasteful practices. Pilots were very angry last year, but as a group, they're very happy right now.

Given that the pilots aren't angry right now, perhaps they've been convinced to bring that 90 minute cushion down to something more reasonable, closer to the 45 minute FAA min, and in the process, saving the airline up to $100 million a year at today's prices.

If carrying just 45 minutes of extra fuel (which would save about $100 million annually at today's prices) means that, occasionally, flights like the OP's are forced to divert, then I believe that AA has made the right call. Too bad for the OP, but good for the bottom line and good for the environment. I'm not a rabid environmentalist, but I can see the benefits of not needlessly burning $100 million worth of jet fuel just to carry a much larger cushion than is necessary. $100 million is about 33 million gallons at today's prices.
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Old Aug 9, 13, 10:29 am
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
Flew yesterday afternoon from MIA up to LGA.

At boarding time we were advised that due to weather, causing heavy volume in LGA arrivals, we would be delayed 30 to 45 minutes for take-off. On the radio (NY News Radio 88), they were reporting 90 minute to 2 hour arrival delays.

We finally took off, and about 2 hours into the 2 hour 30 minute flight the pilot came on and said we were going to be diverted to BDL (Hartford), as we would not have enough fuel to enter the holding pattern. We diverted to Hartford, fueled and left again in less than an hour for the quick 25 minute flight to LGA. In the end we got in around 2 1/2 hours late.

So that is the background. In my opinion this was a "technical" delay versus a weather delay. I feel this way because the airline knew the weather conditions, knew the airport conditions and still chose to send us with the minimal fuel they felt was correct. Now the vast majority of time, this makes sense as it saves money. However, in this case, they gambled wrong, my trip suffered and I feel that part of taking the gamble for the airline was the possibility that a plane load of passengers would suffer. And when that happens, the airline should compensate us in some form.

I am curious to hear from others opinions in a non-flame manner. No, I have not filed a complaint nor requested anything.
This is not a flame response, but would you have rather stayed in Miami and taken a different flight later in the day? Diversions don't happen very often at LGA, but as you (might) know, afternoon summer weather delays are a huge risk in the northeastern US. All regarding the weather.
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