An ultra-long-haul flight, a substantially late start, and a longer-than-usual route – not the best of combinations when flying between cities pretty much on opposite sides of the world. But that’s precisely what happened to an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER flying from New Delhi (DEL) to New York City (JFK) on November 29th. The otherwise non-stop flight had to make a stopover at Gander airport before continuing on to JFK. Let’s find out more.
Late start leads to diversion
American Airlines flight AA293 has a scheduled departure time of 12:55 am from New Delhi to New York JFK. The daily non-stop service between the two cities was recently inaugurated on November 12th, marking the official return of the airline to India since 2012.
The ultra-long-haul flight cannot use the Russian airspace for now (more on that later), which means that the aircraft has to take a longer route both ways, with the return flight to NYC being the longer of the two. Any significant delay for this particular flight risks the crew timing out and not completing the entire flight.
And that’s what happened on November 29th, when the flight to NYC was delayed by almost four hours. As reported by One Mile At A Time, the crew had two options – to cancel the flight or divert it to an intermediate point and have a crew change. The carrier chose the latter.
The airplane made a stop at Gander, and American had to fly another crew to the airport to complete the remainder of the 777’s flight to New York.
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Non-stop flights between India and the US are some of the longest in the world and mostly require rights to overfly Russian airspace for a more efficient route. Air India and United routinely take this route on their India-US flights to save both time and fuel.
One Mile At A Time reports that American Airlines currently does not have permission to use Russian airspace for this route. The airline’s management best knows the reason for this – perhaps there has been a delay in applying for airspace rights.
This has made an already long flight even longer, sometimes stretching the one back to NYC for more than 16 hours. The report suggests that Eric Ferguson, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), is not happy with the new route to Delhi as the airline has been staffing the flight with just one captain and three first officers. Because of the longer route due to the Russian airspace problem and the flight almost reaching 16 hours, it should ideally have two captains.
Flights of this duration leave little room for significant delays. American Airlines does use the Russian airspace for some of its other flights, so it seems the carrier has had some delays in completing the necessary formalities to acquire the rights for the JFK-DEL flights. Hopefully, this is a minor hiccup along the way to what one expects to be a long and successful return of American Airlines to India.
Have you traveled non-stop between India and the US? What has your experience been like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.