Middle East Tension Leads To 36-Hour TUI Flight Delay

Passengers expecting to fly on a TUI route between London Gatwick and Goa, India, have faced 36 hours of delays as the airline scrambled to deal with rising tensions in the Middle East.

TUI delayed passengers up to 36 hours in order to find a new route over the Middle East. Photo: TUI

What are the details?

On Saturday evening, passengers were queueing to board TOM30, a Boeing 787-8 flight between London Gatwick and Goa, India, when it was annouced that their flight was delayed.

According to The Independent, passengers waiting in line were told that their flight would not depart Saturday. The explanation given was: “recent political issues in the Middle East, this has resulted in airspace restrictions along the route of your flight.”

Specifically referring to the escalating tensions between the United States, Iraq, and Iran.

In the interest of keeping Simple Flying focused on the aviation industry, we will skip over the reasons behind this increase in tensions and only mention that it caused several governments to issue travel warnings to Iraq and Iran.

How did this affect TUI?

Previously the route between London and Goa flew over Europe, dashed through Turkey, swooped across the Gulf countries (Iraq specifically) then onto destination India. But, with these issues currently cropping up in the region, TUI decided to postpone the flights both ways until it could manage a new route across the region.

The previous route crossing over Iraq. Photo: Flight Aware

Passengers were put up in hotels as TUI worked out the details. One such passenger, Steve Bowles, was trying to return home to London and spoke to The Independent, saying,

“We all want to get home to our families, jobs, clean clothes and of course the cat.”

After 36 hours of delays, TUI managed to plan a new route for the aircraft. The new route would take the aircraft (a Boeing 787-8) south over Croatia, over Eygpt then through Saudi Arabia and Oman before reaching Goa (or vice-versa).

The new TUI route avoiding Iraq. Photo: Flight Aware

“The journey is long and we hope for an event-free flight. Everyone in Goa has been so kind and friendly. It is such a lovely place to visit. Such a shame the holiday ends this way.” continued Mr. Bowles.

To help ease the delay to the passengers, TUI offered them compensation up to €600 (£513 or $674 USD) under European Air Passenger regulations. According to the referenced article, airlines don’t actually need to pay in this scenario as the change in airspace restrictions actually counts as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

Or is it?

TUI didn’t need to change the route

When the newspaper got in touch with British Airways, they were informed that no other airline had yet changed their over region routing due to these tensions.

“Our teams are closely monitoring the situation. Flights continue to operate normally.” – A spokesperson at British Airways to The Independent.

In fact, no governments have yet ruled a no-fly zone to or over the two countries.  Only TUI changed the route through different airspace. Thus TUI had actually caused the delay to the passengers, making them liable under the regulations.

Simple Flying reached out to TUI for a statement regarding this story:

“TOM030, Gatwick to Goa and TOM031, Goa to Gatwick were delayed due to flying restrictions along the intended route. The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority. The revised time of departure for TOM030 was 07:00 (local) on Monday 6th January and TOM031 at 23:20 (local) on Monday 6th January.

“All customers were being looked after in hotels until the new flight departure and we can confirm both flights landed safely.”

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