While its response could have been much better, I find myself with a sympathetic take on the recent American Airlines 777 diversion to Bermuda that stranded passengers for almost a full day. Passengers should not be left to fend for themselves, but there is only so much an airline can do.
How Badly Did American Airlines React To Bermuda 777 Diversion?
In one sense, American Airlines did all it could. After all, AA38, a 777-200 traveling from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) on August 28, 2022, did not divert to Bermuda (BDA) for fun. Instead, pilots diverted to the closest airport after smoke alarms in the electronic equipment compartment raised safety concerns. Do you really want to risk it when there are over 300 souls onboard?
So the plane arrived in Bermuda at 12:57 am and American found itself in a quandary: Bermuda requires testing to enter the country and to further complicate matters, there were not enough hotel rooms available on the island for all the passengers.
A decision was made to keep the passengers in the terminal as American Airlines ferried in a replacement 777 and crew from New York (JFK). That took time not only to gather the crew (it’s not like American Airlines has a 777 with a full crew sitting idle on the tarmac at JFK), but the eventual departure was further delayed because nighttime landings (between 11:30 pm and 6:00 am) at LHR are heavily restricted.
And if that was the whole story, we might all agree that American Airlines did the best it could under the circumstances. But that’s not the whole story.
For 10 hours, passengers were only offered cookies and pretzels to eat:
Only bits of refreshments for the last 10 hours. pic.twitter.com/OC2MNuxVwU
— Jonathan Lo (@jlo_conductor) August 29, 2022
Finally, breakfast arrived around noon, over 11 hours after arriving.
303 passengers were stuck at the L.F. Wade International Airport after being diverted due to a technical fault at 12 40am. AA said a replacement plane is due to leave at 8pm. Passengers cannot check in to a local hotel, according to AA, because of the island’s COVID protocols. pic.twitter.com/0Zhc6DaA3G
— Jasmine Patterson (@_jasminepat) August 29, 2022
A thread on FlyerTalk includes a more or less real-time report of what occurred onboard. The commentary is fascinating:
The worst part is that AA are making it very easy to hate them. We’ve had about two updates in 8.5 hours. During the night not a single AA rep was in the airport. They’re refusing to assist customers such as myself with rebooking connections. As we’re not allowed to enter Bermuda, every passenger here has to get on a plane to London. Obviously, with a 24-hour arrival delay, many passengers now have no reason to travel but are being forced to.
One thing I really don’t understand is that they’ve essentially sectioned off our tiny gate area. Why not let us roam the departure hall, perhaps get a coffee and a bite? Still remaining airside; I don’t see a problem with that. AA/Bermuda for some reason does.
All this is causing passengers to lash out at the 1 ground agent here, she’s in tears, security has been summoned.
No food? Well, good luck coordinating food at an outstation in the middle of the night. Bermuda is not like Miami or New York or London, either…it’s not like there are many 24/7 stores open. In fact, there may not have been any. Plus, the passengers had just been fed dinner on the aircraft. Was everyone suddenly hungry? That said, the breakfast certainly could have been assembled a few hours earlier.
No updates? That’s the real failure. It should not have fallen upon one ground agent to be the scapegoat. Why was AA not sending out text updates about what was going on?
Passengers were left to sleep on the floor in a terminal. Apparently, government health officials were ready and willing to administer rapid antigen tests to let passengers into the country, but only on the condition that passengers had a confirmed hotel booking.
I do not doubt that there were not enough beds for each passenger, but I would think some reseroucesful passengers would have found room to book and even those passengers were not allowed out.
Communication is key. Always.
This was a perfect storm, to a degree. I don’t come down quite as hard on American Airlines as others do because Bermuda is a difficult station. Where would the passengers have gone? Could AA have done better? For sure. But was it a total failure as some have alleged? I just don’t see it.
Incidentally, this whole incident exposes the sort of customer service that thousands face each day when delays or cancellations occur. Particularly, it exposes what happens to passengers who find themselves stranded in a country without a passport or visa to enter. It should make us in the West thankful how easy we usually have it…
image: @_jasminepat / Twitter
How many miles were just credited to your AAdvantage account?
What excuse does Bermuda have to still require COVID testing?
Probably a lack of Hospital beds should the virus replicate on the Island. Its not attached or near main land. Bermuda has to consider its Citizens and infrastructure.
Because they dont want an island that depends on tourists to get sick and close. Yes silly. Covid is still very active.
Because they have a brain + common sense.
Maybe someone should tell Bermuda that the Covid theater is over.
Not true. Some small islands have been successful in keeping Covid mostly out.
For what reason? How many people are still loading hospitals with Covid? It is not even news anymore. Move on.
How many hospital beds does Bermuda have?
How many people are needing hospitalization because of Covid? Probably less than the ones that get sick there for other reasons.
If they aren’t vaccinated, quite a few I would imagine. Especially on an island like Bermuda.
How did covid zero work for Australia New Zealand or china . Bermuda has not had success in keeping covid out. 17000 cases and 148 deaths.
1.04 million Americans died due to Covid-19. It is not theater and your absence of empathy and callous comment reminds one of the former Grabber-in-chief who promised, “Covid will go away in the spring [of 2020] like a miracle.” Slightly inaccurate and bereft of any sorrow nor empathy, but lots of moronic ideas about bleach and UV rays.
Until you get sick silly.
what is Covid theatre?
Bermuda is clearly the unreasonable party here but AA should’ve figured out a way to feed passengers. Passengers could easily have chosen to skip dinner anticipating a full flight or gotten hungry after the adrenaline rush of a diversion. If flying economy, I always need a few more snacks before going to sleep simply sitting in my seat. Imagine if forced to deboard? I’d definitely need a meal.
“Passengers could easily have chosen to skip dinner anticipating a full flight”
What does this mean? Why would someone skip dinner because they thought the flight was going to be full? I don’t understand the connection between these two points.
I think the idea is skip dinner because the flight will run its “full” scheduled course, and there would be a breakfast course a few hours after the dinner service, not because the seats are full.
My take on this was kind of similar. No way was AA going to find 300 beds at 1AM in Bermuda during high season. By the time they got everyone spread around the island in different hotels they would have to start getting people back from a myriad of places. It would be a mess.
Where I lay blame is the crew. You are missing the part, Matthew, that the crew just left everyone, jumped in a van, and headed to a hotel. This was heartless and egregious, especially with plenty of duty time left. There is no better advocate in this case with operations than the Captain, and to a lesser degree the remaining crew. Creative low tech options from a caring crew would have made a huge difference. First, they could have brought out the breakfast from the aircraft. It was sitting there. Second, the Captain could have orchestrated in all out effort to wake up, I dunno, perhaps a pizza place nearby and get 100 pizzas made and delivered (what shop owner would not be happy to get up for that!), With no advocate there with any resources or abilities to go outside the box we see the outcome. There must be a charge to take control of the situation. Further, a Captain needs to exude calm and project a command of the situation to ease everyone into the situation. This Captain though reminds me of the one who exited the aircraft recently before passengers in an evacuation…”Y’all are on your own!”
I am just astounded that the crew just left 300 people sitting there with nothing and no sort of command and just went to the hotel. Words escape me to better describe how cold and callous this was. So, since the blame game is running rampant on this, I blame the crew and especially the Captain. However, it’s typical I guess given how awful they have become in this country.
@Stuart, I generally agree with everything you have just state, but one thing to note is that I do not think it would have been possible to remove food from the aircraft due to Customs/Agricultural regulations.
One question I have, in general, is I thought that ETOPS requirements mandated better plans of action for passenger care during diversions. Specifically, I was under the impression that diversion airports were required to provide timely and adequate support in the event of a diversion. I also thought it was protocol to serve the second meal prior to landing.
@Sam. You may be right in the removal of food. But I imagine a great deal of the economy meals were packaged muffins and yogurt etc. And it seems the packaged biscotti and pretzels were provided from the plane according to the photos. But it’s certainly a good point as to the rest.
As far as I know ETOPS regulations are simply that the airport can handle the aircraft and are willing to take them in an emergency. I’m sure it’s more complex than this and maybe others can chime in. But I don’t think the ability to provide shelter and food for 300 people is on the list? Given some of the Pacific islands that allow diversions that are nothing more than science stations, one would imagine it’s more about aircraft ability to land than anything else.
Remember we are talking about Bermuda. Fancy Pants Bermuda. The island that has big resorts, cruise ships and destination events. A couple of calls & the company credit card and you have catering. Even in the middle of the night. And the first place that should have been called was the hotel that the crew was checking into. AA dropped the ball after the plane landed.
I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve been to Bermuda. Fancy Pants Bermuda. Part of the fancy is that not everyone there is interested in catering a 300 person meal at 1AM some random Sunday night with no notice. Bermuda airport does 8-10 flights a day. Putting a catered meal together for 300 people, who are effectively on government quarantine, there in under 12 hours was a pretty decent result, not that it makes it any easier for folks to go through.
@Mr. Marcus. Interesting, because new reports are coming in that Catering in Bermuda offered AA the opportunity to cater the passengers in the terminal shortly after they arrived. AA declined it at the time.
@Stuart: I could be wrong, link up a source.
@Mr. Marcus. A gentleman who is a Catering executive works with the team there and laid out the scenario on VFTW. The BDA team were contacted by him and they explained that they in fact reached out to AA upon the diversion landing regarding getting breakfast at 7AM for the passengers. They report that AA declined it at the time (Who knows, at the time perhaps they thought they would have an aircraft ferried there sooner than that). As well, reports are also widespread that two large hotels indeed had the space to split the passengers between the two and AA were offered the accommodations. The operations people at AA never called back after getting that information. Further, BDA had local health and immigration staff there and ready to assist with testing and processing people so they could go to hotels. Again, AA did nothing to facilitate this or work with locals. Vans were also standing by and arranged by the hotels to begin ferrying passengers to the hotels. Much of this is also reported in the Bermuda paper, The Gazette.
While I don’t feel there was specific malice on behalf of AA in this (or their being cheap), I do think it was a clear lack of any organizational chain of command to make decisions and advocate. Or at least try. As I said before, I do believe that had the Captain remained to try and assist the situation he would have had a much better ear with Ops in Dallas (or wherever) to try and find some solution. At least to assure that there would be food first thing in the morning. What 300 passengers were left with was a single agent at the airport who was called in, was clearly lacking any training in this, had no direct contact to decision makers, and ended up reportedly crying and later lashing out at passengers to the point that local airport staff had to hold her back.
It is a complete and utter failure on many levels. I am not saying that the hotel option was a good one necessarily as perhaps, but AA was clearly offered early morning options for catering and never responded to the Catering company there.
I completely agree with all of this outside of calling pizza shops. It’s not like the captain magically has an owners phone number. I also don’t see why food was the issue. They just ate. Although bfast being served at noon is ridiculous. The captain could have taken charge and while in reality done little. Them to sleeping on the floor would have went a long way. At least trying to bring out food would show they’re trying.
Perception is reality and the crew let their passengers down. They really are the ones who should be shamed, not AA.
But to anyone who flies AA, it’s no surprise. Half of them probably thought they were in heathrow because they’re so old and senile.
@Shawn. Perhaps you have not read about the Delta pilots handling few diversions to airports due to weather. With passengers hungry and stuck on the plane or in the terminal, the pilots in both cases called local pizza delivery and paid for it with their personal credit card for the entire plane (DL of course later reimbursed and commended them). Amazing what a small gesture like this can do to raise the spirits of those in your charge under uncomfortable circumstances. That’s called leadership.
Your comments about the crew are arrogant and ignorant at best. Do you realize this crew did a great job potentailly saving an airplane and 300 lives and the winers are quibbling about breakfast? As far as your comment “the Captain. However, it’s typical I guess given how awful they have become in this country.” It’s the most clueless thing I’ve ever heard an ametuer say. You could not hold a candle to he or she, whomever the Captain was. Handling an inflight emergency and landing overweight at a tiny island runway in the middle of the night.
Your also wrong about the DL pilots buying pizza. You can’t even keep your airlines straight Stuart. It was an American Airlines Captain who first did this (in the middle of the afternoon in Texas, not unexpectedly at 1 AM).
Heres the link:
In addition Stuart, and all the rest of you pathetic winers, would you want to fly an overwater leg to LHR from BDA with a crew that symbollicaly slept on the airport floor with you? Give me a break.
Youre the first one to wine when a weather delay happens, but you would be the first to sue if you got injured flying upside down in severe turbulaence and hail if the crew ignored their thunderstorm avoidance procedures.
You’re a typical know-it-all but know nothing at all about a complex operation such as flying a jet airliner 5000 miles across an ocean.
Look up Swiss Air 111 Sh*t for brains.
Thank you, Jim! That crew probably had the pleasure of working the flight to LHR the next day as the crew from JFK would not have been able. Better they get to a hotel as soon as possible to start their rest period so the replacement plane could leave as soon as LHR would take it.
I imagine AA didn’t have any solid answers most of the night, but communicating even that probably would have been better than what they apparently communicated. To me, that’s about all you can fault here, certainly not the crew
COVID, the universal justification for all manner of lazy/incompetent BS. This is no different.
The show is over everyone – it was the Chinese guy in the lab with Dr. Fauci and a test tube. Oh, and you can take the damn masks off too!
He blinded me with science!!!
You voted for a guy that thinks you have a finite amount of energy for your life and if you exercise too much you will use it all up and die. So zip it with any covid talk, you are out of your depth.
Stay angry please! Your completely wrong. Hope you get sick!
It was a 777-300. 300 people could only fit on 777-200 if people were stuffed in the overheads. Details matter.
A 777-200 actually can carry 312 pax.
A 777-200ER can carry up to 312 pax.
This leads me to plan to bring some food on every flight, more on long flights over oceans. Australia is a problem because that food would have to be mostly thrown away.
I wonder if someone proactively did Covid tests and brought the results with them could they leave the airport. It would be risky without a contact, like a reliable passenger in the airport but one could safely plan that no aircraft would come before 7 am.
Once you have total control over the people, it’s very hard for the so-called authorities to give it up.
Same reason why Djocovic, a world class athlete who already had Covid, cannot enter the USA but literally millions of illegal can enter the USA and roam freely.
ITS NOT ABIUT COVID
“a world class athlete who already had Covid, cannot enter the USA but literally millions of illegal can enter the USA and roam freely”
That is nonsense.
@rjb: It is always about control and money. Did you happen to see the new sponsor for the US Open? Moderna. LOL!!! Do you think they want someone unvaccinated to attend an event where the sponsor is a Covid vaccine maker?
A worldwide conspiracy to gain control? From who, the illuminati? You sound nuts
Wow, Matthew, what a John-Kerry-level flip-flop from yesterday!!
Was it miles (per above), cash, or SWUs that spurred your “change of heart”?
First everybody is safe. But the situation that 300 were left confined & abandoned is shameful. And I guarantee I could have found someplace nearby that would deliver food. There were elderly & children. And ONE crying rep! AA is very lucky the outcome wasn’t worse. That that was something they could have had TOTAL CONTROL OVER! Forgive the yelling caps, but the lack of compassion is astonishing.
Next time keep flying the burning aircraft, the only crying that these whiny passengers will do is when that triple 7 is plummeting into the Atlantic… Anyways this sounds like it’s a Bermuda problem, not AA;s. Note to self, don’t go to Bermuda, it’s lame.
Exactly Flip! Let the prima donnas look up Swiss Air 111 who aklso had electrtical smoke. None of them lived to complain to the Halifax newspaper.
Some of this was out of AA control and it was a perfect storm. Matthew is pretty much on the ball here. But AA once again proves that it’s response to what IS within its control puts it behind Spirit and only ahead of Frontier. Embarrassing
The curse of the Bermuda Triangle…
I live in Bermuda. There were enough hotel rooms. AA was probably too cheap to pay for them but, surprise surprise, they did manage to find the crew a hotel at Grotto Bay Hotel. Hardly anywhere would have been open on the island for anyone to eat by time the flight landed but there would have been a few options – none close to the airport. The Bermuda Hotel Association today said some of their member hotels were contacted by AA to see if rooms were available. AA was informed that there were enough rooms available and that was the last they heard from AA. This leads me to believe that AA did not want to pay for it or arrange the transport.
INteresting points – we will follow-up with AA.
Hey Matt how about you follow up with Bermudian reps as well. Or you could have done a bit more research before actually writing this story. Unless you had a Covid-related agenda? Considering your main point of blame is Bermuda’s Covid restrictions. Or are you on AA’s payroll maybe?
Or I read a blog and am not an investigative journalist.
Oh, but I do wish I was on the AA payroll…
Yes, there may have been hotel rooms, but let’s think of the ENTIRE process…First, everyone would have to be tested to enter the country. Second, everyone would have to be processed by immigration to enter Bermuda. Third, they would need transportation TO and FROM the hotel.
My point is this…getting hotels is only one part of the solution. Arranging all the pieces takes time. I’ve been to BDA several times…the airport is not that big and given the time of the evening, most airport staff would probably needed to be called in to complete the testing and immigration. And I don’t think there would be any readily available mass transportation at the airport…that would take time to arrange as well.
I understand where you are coming from as Bermuda is not always the easiest place to get things done. That being said, I believe it could have been done. Immigration officers were at the airport already. Department of health was there as well to test people who wanted to leave. I am certain that AA could have arranged some mass transport for them even at that time of the night. One of the hotels they spoke to (Hamilton Princess) has their own buses so at a minimum they could have asked to use those. In addtion, people who work in the touism industry here are very aware of what is needed and I am 100% certain that, although not ideal, they would have made the extra effort to ensure that passengers would got to and from their destination even at that ungodly hour. The real problem is that it seems AA did not want to pay the money or could not be bothered to arrange everything.
It seems there is only one way to resolve this debate . . . apply the scientific method and try to replicate the original conditions to test the hypothesis that an airline could provide lodging and food to 303 people in under 12 hours in Bermuda beginning at 1AM, while quarantine restrictions are in effect.
Perhaps someone could call Bermuda at 1AM local time and see if they could secure housing and catered food for 303 people? Maybe someone with local connections could get some volunteers to be guinea pigs in exchange for the prospect of free food and lodging for a night? Seems like the stuff of a wildly successful viral video if done properly, especially if it incorporates an altruistic angle.
I’m trying to figure out how a response to a carrier’s handling of a diversion under difficult circumstances could have provoked some much COVID protocol bluster and buffoonery. That aside, I have to believe even if they had diverted to a destination on the US mainland at 1am, arranging transportation, lodging, and meals for 300 would have been a massive undertaking. I was an operations manager for a major US carrier at a major US airport and even then we were limited in terms of what we could do to keep people fed and lodged in some circumstances. I’m with Matthew on this one. I’m also in agreement with the comment regarding the crew deserting the passengers without a little commiseration, that might’ve helped..
Matthew, you are exactly correct. Things happen in life. To everyone. The crew was not being paid to hang out with the passengers. The captain would have to work miracles to get people fed, housed & transported to & from hotel. I guess the flight attendants could have handed out the snacks. Lol.
Unlike Delta where the pilots on diversions have ordered pizza for the entire aircraft. Or, as well, cases where out of courtesy and respect many foreign airline crews will refuse to leave their passengers until a resolution and plan is in place for them. They are absolutely paid to be ambassadors to their company and there to provide for the passengers placed under their charge and care.. Further, they were still well within duty time. Having a person of leadership (in this case the Captain) will do wonders in projecting guidance and comfort. As well, a Captain is a far better advocate with operations versus a single local agent who was thrust into this and has no contacts at Operations beyond basic customer service. Even flight attendants could have assisted parents to assure that their children were as comfortable as could be and to check on older people’s well being and any health concerns. Not only is it their job, it is basic human compassion at play. The fact that you say “they are not paid for this” leads me to believe you are one of them or, even worse, lack any empathy or leadership skills whatsoever.
Each country has a right to protect themself….had this done from the inception of covid…..we would not be in this prediction…….safety!
It never ceases to amaze me that after all these years, the airlines remain clueless about the fact that ANY airport can be, and probably has at some point been used as a diversion point. Here’s a radical thought… How about training those station folks with some basics that they can use during such a situation? I suspect that if that one woman had received any kind of basic training on how to muster support for a diversion, she might not have been reduced to tears.
Or imagine if the crew had actually cared and stayed for an hour or two to assist her instead of running off to their hotel after only a few hours of duty time?
ETOPS certification requires enough hotel rooms in diversion city. Airlines cannot pick a rock in the ocean as a backup airport for that reason.
They should not have flown the route as is, if Bermuda has no hotels. They could have picked more Northern route with Iceland as backup. But that would be more expensive.
Regulatory capture is disgusting in US, I don’t know how routes like this are allowed.
Where, in the ETOPS certification, does it say say there needs to be enough hotel rooms in the diversion city? I read through AC 120-42b and seen no mention of hotels. But even if it did, no airport listed as an ETOPS alternate keeps 300 hotel rooms available on the off chance that they get a diverted 777.
Just in case you were still wondering … Routes like this are allowed because they meet the regulatory requirements. Maybe if you read the regulations more carefully you would be less angry.
Would you like to fly on another 4 hours with smoke in the avionics compartment Daniel? To Iceland. Do you realize this crew did a great job potentailly saving an airplane and 300 lives and the winers are quibbling about breakfast?
I am sorry for the paxs but this is a kind of situation which nobody wants to be. The emergency landing was necessary as the pilot decided so. Bermuda with its strict Covid rules cannot be bend for some AA paxs who happened to land randomly in the middle of the night. The main problem is AA without any proper support on the grounds.
So whst happened to AA crew? Were they allowed to enter Bermuda or stayed in the plane?