WOW: Volcanic Eruption Causes 11 Hour KLM Flight To Nowhere

A KLM flight from Amsterdam to Mexico City yesterday was forced to make a diversion. However, despite already being over North America, the aircraft returned to Amsterdam, meaning an 11-hour flight to nowhere for passengers. The diversion was prompted by a volcanic eruption affecting Mexico City.

KLM, Mexico City, Volcano
A volcanic eruption in Mexico forced a KLM Boeing 747 to make an 11-hour flight to nowhere. Photo: KLM

At Simple Flying, we’ve seen a number of impressive entries for “longest flight to nowhere”. These flights typically occur when an aircraft needs to divert, but the issue is not serious enough to prompt an immediate landing. Sometimes this can be a fault detected on takeoff necessitating returning right away, or in the case of the KLM flight, it’s flying to North America and back.

What happened?

So what exactly happened with flight KL685 yesterday? Operated by a Boeing 747, registered as PH-BFT, KLM flight 685 was due to depart from Amsterdam at 14:35 CET. The flight, however, did not get airborne until 15:06, around half an hour behind schedule.

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Once airborne, the aircraft proceeded to start its flight as would be expected, climbing to around 30,000 feet before cruising across the Atlantic.

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KLM, Mexico City, Volcano
KL685 got all the way to North America before turning around. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

At around 20:30 CET, the aircraft had been flying for five and a half hours. It was at this point that the aircraft turned around and began to fly back to Amsterdam. Following its diversion, the aircraft touched down at the Dutch flag carriers home at approximately 02:15 CET the next day.

Why return to Schipol?

So why did the aircraft return to Schipol? The whole diversion was prompted by a volcanic eruption in Mexico. As a result of the volcanic eruption, it was realized that the aircraft wouldn’t be able to make it to its intended destination, Mexico City.

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Aircraft avoid clouds of volcanic ash, as the small particles can destroy engines and make seeing outside almost impossible. This is why such widespread disruption was caused when huge amounts of volcanic ash blew across to Europe from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.

KLM, Mexico City, Volcano
A volcanic eruption in Mexico led to the return to Amsterdam. Photo: christopheducoin from Pixabay

The pilots were faced with a decision. While they could’ve chosen to divert to a stop nearby, they also had enough fuel to return to Schipol. So that’s what they did! The pilots chose to return to Amsterdam for two reasons. Firstly, the visa requirements of the passengers meant that landing in the United States or Canada would be impractical unless essential. Secondly, however, the aircraft also had a large cargo of live horses onboard, which presumably could’ve experienced issues diverting.

What did KLM say?

Simple Flying reached out to a representative of KLM regarding the incident. In a statement, a spokesperson said:

“Due to a volcanic eruption in Mexico, the flight KL685 Amsterdam-Mexico returned to Schiphol on Thursday 28 November. The flight landed safely at Schiphol at 2.30 AM, where the passengers disembarked normally and have been taken care of in Amsterdam. They will berebooked on an alternative flight. Landing at another airport was not possible, because of the visa requirements of passengers and as there was a large cargo of horses on board.”

According to data from FlightRadar24.com, today’s KLM flight to Mexico City is also canceled.

Were you onboard KL685 yesterday? What was it like flying to North America and back? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Kamil

Big lies on KLM side. At one point, there were almost 90 flights that were heading Mexico City. Only this one was diverted. All planes destinated to Mexico City were arriving as well as all planes departing from MEX were able to fly.
KLM clearly lies and hiding the real reason (horses) trying to excuse by blaming volcano eruption.
Look at other KLM flights that landed there.

Ed

Is Kamil a pilot?

Matt

Ultimately the decision is for the crew to make. They decided to avoid a BA 9 situation. I’m surprised they went back, but it is what it is.

Fitz

I had wondered why they turned around. Sometimes it is the best thing, I guess. At least they knew not to fly thru a cloud of “devil’s dust.”
One expensive go around trip for KLM.

Transworld

Werid. Passengers AND Horses mixed?

Bernie

Highly stressed horses … that’s for sure.

Jacobus

KLM has a few 747’s which are equipped for 268 passengers and live cargo. You find the description of the planes on there site as 747-400 COMBI.

william

It must’ve been a combi.

David G

What about the duty time for the crew?

Hein Vandenbergh

Why did they carry so much fuel that a 5 1/2 hour diversion was possible? Sounds wasteful to me, uplifting all that extra tonnage. Something about this event has the distinct scent of horsemanure about it

Javed

KL685 is a 12 hour flight & as they diverted half-way (over Canada) they would have simply used the remaining fuel to return to their point of origin. They weren’t carrying an “extra” 5 1/2 hours worth of fuel.

Robert

Can we get the story from the horse’s mouth? All remaining KLM 747s are combis. @Hein Vandenbergh .. Why would the return need more fuel than the remaining stretch to the final destination .. they were fueled up for AMS MEX but turned back halfway. KLM pilots no doubt all remember the time one of their 747s flew through an unannounced volcanic ashcloud on its aay to Anchorage .. all four engines down but they could fortunately be restarted.

E1craZ4life

You’re thinking BA9 over Jakarta.

Albert Veldstra

I remember that one and still have the Anchorage daily news with the article

Arschloch

To quote Ebenezer Schrooge, “Bah Humbug”.

Jim

I’m surprised that there was no Mexican airport to divert to.