I don’t know how I missed this, but we have another chronicle in the “flights to nowhere” book, only this Lufthansa flight added insult to injury.
On December 9th, LH404, an A340-600, took off on-time from Frankfurt (FRA) bound for New York (JFK). It traveled for nearly four hours without incident before encountering a hydraulic system failure.
Pilots, in consultation with Lufthansa ground staff, decided to turn the plane around and return to Frankfurt. Ireland would have been closer, but it probably made sense to return back to Lufthansa headquarters and the home of Lufthansa Technik. There may have also been visa issues at play.
Lufthansa later called the decision to return to Frankfurt a “precautionary measure” rather than an emergency, emphasizing that in a worst-case scenario the aircraft’s landing gear may not have deployed properly in New York.
Now that would have been bad enough.
But Frankfurt is closed each night from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Environmentalism has been hip in Germany long before it caught on elsewhere and environmentalists plus residents around Frankfurt Airport have worked very hard over the years to limit nighttime takeoff and landings at FRA.
Because the problem was not deemed an emergency, the aircraft diverted to Cologne instead, landing at 1:53AM local time. After landing without incident, passengers were bussed to Frankfurt in the middle of the night.
Some were reaccomodated on LH404 the following day while others were rebooked on another routing to their final destination.
An 8-hour flight to nowhere is bad enough, but that followed by a bus ride in the middle of the night? Ouch…
And as always, I am sure passengers had to fight for any EU261/2004 compensation.
image: Arcturus / Wikimedia Commons
omg, you’re right. In this crazy situation, eu/261 might not even apply.
But that’s something, that the common folks won in their bid to keep the airport from having takeoffs/ladings late at night. Don’t know how practical it is, but it’s something that they managed to get it passed.
Sounds as if this was done purely for the convenience of LH, without regard to the massive inconvenience to passengers. The risk of turning around was no more and no less than the risk of proceeding to New York — the plane had to land somewhere, and it’s not as if JFK is less equipped for an emergency than Cologne. Had the plane landed in JFK, LH would have had greater effort and expense in getting the problem repaired, but it could have got its passengers to where LH had promised to take them. Unless I hear more information that makes these assumptions incorrect, I’ll assume that this wasn’t LH’s finest hour.
Yup. This exactly. But people don’t fight for their rights and most times vote against their best interests. Don’t think many passengers would have caught on.
I see your point regarding passenger convenience. But LH is a business that must also take business decisions surely. Having a badly damaged aircraft on the other side of the ocean from your main maintenance base surely isn’t a risk worth taking? Not when you have shareholders to answer to. Pax compensation would be a fraction of what it might otherwise have ended up costing.
I hope most of the environmentalist had their old parents or grandparents or relatives who was ill on that flight. Their stupid campaign ended up hurting their family, is the best laugh on the world of aviation. Haha
The most appropriate flight number – LH404, destination not found.
May I suggest that you post that letter you wrote on behalf of your clients to Lufthansa/Swiss (forgot which carrier it was) for compensation? I can’t seem to find it any longer but it worked great for me and could see others benefiting from it as well. I just copied and pasted what you wrote and swapped the personal info, flight info, etc. LH compensated me without any issue. You really saved my wife and I! Thanks
All things considered it’s probably still the best option. I survived longer bus rides than that and for the 600 EUR i wouldn’t mind it too much.
For the night restrictions: Welcome to Europe, enjoy our “free” healthcare but please don’t make noise after 10 PM. And don’t forget the Kehrwoche!
JFK has one of the longest runways in the world, Far longer than Cologne
As a leisure traveler, I’d have been delighted. I’d happily endure that mishap for €600. EU261 is a beautiful thing.
Many cities have worked to put limits on night flights. It usually isn’t an environmental issue but a noise issue. I think if you live in a flight path you live in a flight path but for those who do I guess they prefer some quiet hours.
I was on the flight, alone with my 2 yr old. We landed in cologne – with no assistance from Lufthansa ground staff. Thanks to the Pilot and crew for landing us safely. Buses were waiting to shuttle us to Frankfurt, but by the time I got to the bus with my 3 large suitcases, sleeping toddler in my arms and a stroller, the buses had left. 30 other people and me waited in the middle of the night at cologne airport to find out what’s next. It was freezing and we were waiting outside the terminal. I made a big deal saying we have to go indoors – that was ridiculous! Finally an hr later we were told that taxis would take us to Frankfurt. So then we lugged ourselves and all our luggage into individual taxis and started the trip to Frankfurt, 90 min away, at 4am. Not to mention taxi drivers there drove 140 miles an hr with a tiny booster seat for my toddler. I held on for dear life. Finally get to Frankfurt, no assistance at the airport for myself and my toddler (we were in business class if that even matters anymore), and then rebooked on the 1pm flight back to NYC. Airport hotels all full so we hung out in the lounge for 8 hrs. By now it has been 36 hrs since I started our trip from Delhi. Nightmare. And I’ve flown Lufthansa all my life!
Is it environmentalists who are responsible for flights restricted at night or noise complaints? I think it’s the latter.
It’s just one of many tactics in the toolbox.