Suspected Paperwork Error Leads To 9 Hour Brussels Airlines Flight Back To Origin

A Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 flew nine hours from Brussels to Brussels on Saturday. Due to human error, the aircraft, still painted in the Eurowings livery, was not cleared to fly into the United States and had to turn back while over the Atlantic.

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 Eurowings
A Brussels Airlines A330 was forced to return home halfway across the Atlantic. Photo: Brussels Airlines

The flight, SN515, was operated by an Airbus A330. This aircraft, painted in a Eurowings livery, has only just joined the Brussels Airlines fleet, which appears to be the root cause of the issue. The flight was due to fly from Brussels to Washington, however, never made it. Simple Flying spoke to a representative of Brussels Airlines regarding the incident which took place on Saturday.

The flight

Saturday’s flight was due to fly from Brussels (BRU) to Washington (IAD). The flight, SN515 was due to depart from Brussels at 10:15. Following the 3,892 mile journey, it was then scheduled to touch down in Washington at 12:55.

Things were already going wrong before the Brussels Airlines aircraft even took off. Indeed, the aircraft didn’t actually depart until 12:30 CET, 2-hours and 15-minutes later than scheduled. However, this slight hiccup would turn out to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Human error

The aircraft departed from Brussels airport as planned, and was part way across the Atlantic. It was then discovered that the aircraft could not land in the United States. At this point in time, it was unclear whether the pilots realised this, or were alerted.

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 Eurowings
The aircraft was forced to return to Brussels. Image:

The aircraft in question has only just been transferred to Brussels Airlines from sister airline Eurowings. As such, the aircraft is still in Eurowings colours despite belonging to the Belgian flag carrier.

It turns out that, when an aircraft changes hands in such a manner, there is a whole mountain of paperwork to complete. This includes obtaining permission to operate the aircraft in the US.

Simple Flying spoke to a representative of Brussels Airlines. While they were unable to offer a written statement, the airline told us a number of things. Firstly they clarified that what was described as an operational incident was, in fact, human error, as the wrong aircraft was assigned to the flight. They went on to confirm that they will repaint the aircraft into their colours, and are currently completing the paperwork that will allow US operations.

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 Eurowings
The aircraft in question still wears a Eurowings livery. Photo: Eurowings

A costly mistake for Brussels Airlines

One Mile At A Time points out that this mistake will prove costly to Brussels Airlines. In addition to the money that has been spent on fuel, the carrier will also be liable to cover a number of EU-261 complaints. Indeed, OMAAT suggests that the cost will be over half a million euros for the carrier in total.

Were you onboard the aircraft? What do you think of this mistake? Let us know in the comments!