United Airlines responded to a flight delay by making a strategic choice to divert to Iceland for a crew change rather than delay the flight by a full day. That did not stop passengers from griping.
United Airlines Flight Diverts To Iceland For Crew Change In Order To Reach Newark Quicker, But Passengers Still Grip
UA125 from Athens (ATH) to Newark (EWR) faced a dilemma in Athens on Sunday when one of the pilots contracted COVID-19. The crew could not legally operate the flight all the way to Newark without running afoul of maximum work hour rules. The Boeing 787-10 requires three pilots to operate a flight of that length.
Thus, United could delay the flight by a day, leaving passengers in Athens, or divert to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) in order to exchange crews (a smart and out-of-the-box idea). United chose the latter option and the flight took off, with a planned stop in KEF from the very start.
Due to an unexpected crew scheduling disruption, we will now be making a quick stop in Reykjavik/Keflavik to change flight crews before continuing on to Newark. We’re sorry for this inconvenience, and your patience is much appreciated. Your estimated departure time out of Reykjavik/Keflavik is 9:20pm.
The plan was to quickly change crews in Reykjavik and continue the flight to Newark. Although the flight would arrive too late to make same-day connections, it would allow passengers to make early morning connections to their final destinations and allow passengers to get home more than a half day earlier than if the flight had been delayed a full day.
The crew change ended up taking nearly three hours in KEF, but the flight took off and landing in Newark at 1:38AM. The further in delay in Iceland was due to a sick child onboard.
This has been a long damn day. Looks like besides the crew timeout, now they had to remove a sick child from flight (hope they are okay). Our previous captain said the orig cpt had covid. Number of times we’ve been thanked for our “patience” now numbers 129. So tired. #UA125
— firstname.lastname@example.org (@TashaDono) August 14, 2022
The onboard medical kit was used for the sick passenger and that required replacement before the flight could depart.
Passengers were understandably angry over the delay, but some of the complaints were a bit much. For example, one passenger complained on Twitter, “One stupid decision after another got us from Athens to a small airport in Reykjavik with no infrastructure to support this flight.”
United flight 125 is currently delayed by at least 8+ hours. One stupid decision after another got us from Athens to a small airport in Reykjavik with no infrastructure to support this flight. @united
— Indy Ghosh (@indyghosh) August 14, 2022
While I wouldn’t denigrate KEF in that way, few (if any) delays are going to be fun. Still, even though some passengers would have preferred to remain in Athens an extra day, I bet many were thankful to get to Newark only 9.5 hours late instead of 24 hours later. United did the best it could under the circumstances.
Delays are annoying, but I’m rather impressed at the way United handled this delay. Getting a crew ready in Reykjavik to take over the flight was a smart move and had the handover gone a little quicker, I bet even fewer passengers would have complained. Getting passengers to Newark 9.5 hours later instead of 24 hours later strikes me as the best of two difficult choices. Well done, United.