Talk about a long day. Passengers had little to give thanks about on KLM685 yesterday. The flight returned to Amsterdam…after already reaching North America.
The flight was headed to Mexico City, where Popocatepetl had earlier erupted. A volcanic ash plume rose 21,000 feet making flight conditions potentially hazardous.
The reason for the return was the unfavourable flying conditions above Mexico after activity of the volcano Popocatepetl. Our apologies for the inconvenience.
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) November 29, 2019
The decision to return to AMS was made out of abundance of caution, as many flights navigated around the smoke and landed without issue. The difficulty for KLM was that the eruption occurred after the flight had taken off and it was not clear how bad it was.
The @KLM flight #KL685 from Amsterdam @Schiphol to Mexico turned around over Canada ( New Brunswick ) and is heading back towards Amstedam now. So far its almost 11 hours flying and the passengers are shortly to land back where they started from #avgeek pic.twitter.com/E0IThRaw6b
— Michael Kelly (@Michaelkelly707) November 29, 2019
Landing in Canada or the USA may have made sense in theory, but it made more sense to return to Amsterdam. First, passengers may have had visa issues entering either country. Second, let’s say the flight landed in Toronto, New York, or even Cancun. KLM has neither the resources nor manpower in those places to re-accomodate a full 747-400. Returning to Amsterdam almost six hours into the flight just made sense when conditions in Mexico City were deemed unsafe.
An 11-hour flight to nowhere would annoy most people (not me, who would have loved it)…especially when other planes were landing without issue in Mexico City. But while KLM no doubt took the safe approach, it is a testament to its priority on safety.
(H/T: View from the Wing)