A Qantas flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney made two unexpected stops on the weekend. The flight initially diverted to Nadi owing to a medical emergency on board. Then, due to crew duty limits, the same flight diverted to Auckland where it terminated and passengers were put onto other flights.
The flight, QF8, operated by an A380, departed Dallas Fort Worth on Thursday 23 January 2020. The 13,800-kilometer trek between Dallas Fort Worth and Sydney normally takes 17 hours to complete. It is one of the world’s longest nonstop flights.
Two unexpected diversions
A long day in the air became even longer when a medical emergency required the A380 to divert to Nadi, Fiji. QF8 landed at Nadi around 03:30 on Saturday 25 January 2020 after 13 plus hours in the air. The flight departed Nadi at 05:15, initially destined for Brisbane.
Brisbane is the closest Australian capital city to Nadi, normally a three and a half hour flight. But flight tracking software, FlightAware, shows a sudden turn towards New Zealand not long after leaving Fiji.
The flight landed at Auckland after nearly three hours in the air, touching down at 09:00 on Saturday morning (local time). According to a report in Stuff, QF8 diverted to New Zealand due to crew duty limits.
Simple Flying asked Qantas about their crew duty limits on QF8. They didn’t specifically address our questions but did confirm the Stuff report. After the unexpected diversion to Nadi, crew duty limits prevented the aircraft from reaching Australia and they elected to go to Auckland.
According to Qantas, this was because there were lots of Sydney bound flights leaving Auckland, minimizing further disruptions and delays to its passengers. The airline normally has five flights between Auckland and Sydney on Saturdays.
Qantas told Simple Flying that all passengers on QF8 were put onto Australia bound flights on Saturday. Passengers were also given meal vouchers whilst delayed in Auckland. That wasn’t enough for some passengers, some of whom took to social media to vent their frustrations.
— Pater Benedictus Vulpus OFM Conv (@PaterBenedictus) January 25, 2020
Crew duty limits
Even if all goes well, the 17-hour haul between Dallas Fort Worth and Sydney is pushing toward the upper limits of the current crew duty limits of 20 hours. The crew duty limit includes both time on the ground preparing for the flight and time on the ground after landing.
Extending the crew duty time is one of the challenges Qantas faces regarding Project Sunrise.
Simple Flying also approached the Qantas pilots union, the Australian International Pilots Association, to find out more about the crew duty limits on long haul flights like QF8. They confirmed the crew duty limit of 20 hours and told us the time starts one hour before the scheduled departure time.
According to FlightAware data, QF8 spent 13 hours and 21 minutes flying between Dallas Fort Worth and Nadi. It then spent one hour and 45 minutes on the ground in Nadi.
If you factor in a one hour period prior to departure to prepare for the flight, already the Qantas crew had been on duty for over sixteen hours.
Given it is normally a three and a half-hour flying time to Brisbane, the crew would then have been working approximately 20 hours. This is before post landing work time is factored in
Diverting to Auckland would have brought them in under 20 hours.
Return flight to Dallas delayed
The diversion had a ripple effect on flights later that day. The aircraft was rostered to operate the return service to Dallas on Saturday. However, the plane had to be ferried over from Auckland. The return flight to Dallas was delayed three times before finally taking off late on Saturday evening.