British Airways Flight Bound For Dusseldorf Accidentally Lands In Edinburgh

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.

BA3217 diverted to Edinburgh
The “Welcome to Edinburgh” sign greeted passengers on BA3271. Photo: Pixabay

Paperwork woes

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.

British Airways at London
British Airways Embraer at London City Airport. Source: British Airways

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.

Flight diversions

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.

Video of the day:

London City Airport
London City Airport where BA 3271 departed from. Source: British Airways

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.

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Bruce Soh

Yes this is strange but what was more strange to me was, usually upon takeoff, flight attendance or pilot will announce flight time to that destination and local weather conditions. Really Edinburgh does not sound anywhere near Dusseldorf unless all 50 or so passengers were totally deaf or even partially deaf!
Consider this – even if someone or everyone points out this mistake, can pilot make the decision to divert to Dusseldorf while midair? With the paperwork to Edinburgh? Laughing stock really! To all those Germans aboard, you should learn to pronounce your new city Edusselburgh! Ciao!

Luigi Carani

Really strange case that deserve to be investigated.
Flight plan from EGLC to EDDL is totally different from EGLC to EGPH.
I have to assume that flight crew input the flight plan in the FMS carelessly, as even inexperienced airmen know characteristics VOR or fix along both routes. Moreover, crews are informed in advance about the daily flights; what about ATC? Probably that flight was really assigned mistakenly by the ATC system (Eurocontrol) as EGLC-EGPH with all relevant paperwork while for some reason ground crew and obviously passengers had the correct destination EDDL: all in all a total mess!