British Airways Airbus A320neo Diverts After First Officer Became Unconscious

On Boxing Day, December 26th, a British Airways flight from London to Athens was forced to divert to Zurich Aiport when the first officer became unconscious. The plane landed without incident. It later continued to its original destination where it arrived with a delay of nine hours. The first officer has reportedly recovered and is feeling well.

BA A320neo
A British Airways A320neo diverted to Zurich Airport on Saturday after the first officer was taken ill. Photo: Getty Images

Turned around over Croatia

A British Airways Airbus A320neo was operating Flight BA640 from London, UK, to Athens, Greece, on Boxing Day when the first officer on board was taken ill. The plane was about 20NM north of Zadar, Croatia, and flying at 31,000 feet when the captain decided to turn around due to their cockpit colleague feeling unwell.

The initial intention was to return all the way to London, The Aviation Herald reports. However, on the way back to the UK, the captain indicated they might need to divert to Zurich, Switzerland, or Paris, France. As the first officer then became unconscious close to 45 NM west of Zurich, the captain took the decision to divert there instead.

The plane landed safely at Zurich Airport’s runway 14 close to one and a half hours following the captain’s decision to turn around. It then taxied to a remote stand.

The A320 with registration G-TTNM remained on the ground in Switzerland for five and a half hours before continuing to Athens, where it landed close to nine hours behind schedule.

Flight path BA640 December 26th
The plane was over Croatia when the captain decided to turn back towards the UK. Photo:

No risk to passengers or crew

A spokesperson for British Airways has confirmed that the first officer is now feeling well and will be positioning home. They also said there was never any risk to passengers or crew, and shared the following statement,

“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and the flight continued to its destination as planned.”

The plane operating the Boxing Day flight was British Airways’ newest A320neo. G-TTNM arrived at Heathrow from Toulouse on December 11th. After returning from Athens, it operated one return flight from London to Manchester on December 27th, and one from London to Malaga, Spain, on December 28th.

Gibraltar Airport, Runway with road crossing, Gibraltar
British Airways currently has 80 A320s in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Traveling from the UK to Greece

Greece is one of a minority of EU countries that did not impose a ban on flights arriving from the UK following a spike in new case numbers. Along with Cyprus, it has continued to allow entry to travelers from the UK – given that they take no less than three negative COVID-19 tests.

Passengers must have a negative PCR test result certification issued prior to departure. They must then take a rapid lateral test on arrival. Following a period of ten days of self-isolation, a new PCR test must be carried out in order to exit quarantine.

Have you ever been on a flight that needed to divert following any kind of emergency on board? What was your experience, and how was the incident communicated to passengers? Let us know in the comments.