Monday morning commuters flying from London City Airport to Dusseldorf, Germany (DUS) instead landed in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh (EDI). British Airways flight 3271 flew north to Edinburgh instead of east to Dusseldorf due to incorrect paperwork, according to the airline. The plane sat on the tarmac at the wrong destination for two and a half hours before taking off again, this time landing at the correct airport: Dusseldorf.
The pilot was not lost, according to British Airways. The pilot executed the flight route from London City Airport to Edinburgh, Scotland as was indicated on the paperwork. Passengers were unaware their flight was heading to a mystery destination until the announcement was made that the flight was preparing to land in Edinburgh. Reportedly, he later asked for a show of hands to see who wanted to be taken to Dusseldorf. Everyone on board raised their hand.
British Airways 3271
British Airways flight 3271 departs London City Airport every weekday bound for Dusseldorf, taking off at 7:30 a.m. with a flight time of about one hour. Coincidentally, the flight time from London City Airport to Edinburgh is also one hour. WDL Aviation, a German-owned charter airline, operates the weekday flight as Cityflyer Express 3271. The aircraft is an Embraer 170. It is unknown how many passengers were on board the morning flight.
The flight landed at EDI at 8:55 a.m. and took off for DUS at 10:30 a.m. Flight time between EDI and DUS is approximately an hour and a half. Passengers on board reported the flight ran out of snacks while sitting on the tarmac in EDI. Passengers did not have lavatory access and the plane’s interior become stuffy.
An error in paperwork that sends a plane to the wrong destination is not a common reason for a flight diversion. More common causes for diversions include when a mechanical or technical issue presents itself en route or someone experiences a medical emergency on board. Occasionally pilots will return to the flight origin when something strange happens, such as a fight between passengers or a drunken, unruly customer who desperately needs to use the restroom.
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Flights that land at the wrong airport can sometimes be attributed to airport code mix ups when the codes are similar, or when two airport’s runways are close to each other. In July 2016, Delta flight 2845 mistakenly landed at Ellsworth Air Force Base (RCA) instead of Rapid City (RAP). The two airports are seven miles away from each other but have runways that neatly line up. The airline blamed pilot error.
The next step
British Airways said it is working with WDL Aviation to determine how this mistake was possible. The airline also said it would be individually contacting those on board. No word on what, if any, compensation will be offered for the inconvenience.
Better luck tomorrow, BA 3271.