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