United Airlines Boeing 767 Suffers Mid Flight Fuel Leak & Makes Emergency Landing

Passengers on a United Airlines Boeing 767 flight out of Paris en route to Chicago faced a sudden diversion of travel plans. A fuel leak forced the crew to abandon the transatlantic crossing and divert to Manchester. However, passengers were in for a little more travel than anticipated.

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A United Boeing 767-300ER had to divert after suffering a fuel leak. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

The United 767 diversion

FlightAware tracking notes that the 767 departed Paris as UA986 just after noon local time on Sunday, December 15, 2019. The aircraft was a few hours out of Paris, just about to start the transatlantic crossing, when the crew made the decision to divert due to a suspected fuel leak. The crew then began to dump fuel and divert to Manchester. However, that was not the end of the story for passengers.

United made the decision to bus passengers to London. While United does operate a 767 between Manchester and Newark, accommodating that many passengers on the same flight is a near-impossible task without a replacement aircraft. Out of London, it is easier for United to put passengers on other flights to the United States or even source a replacement aircraft.

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United can better accommodate passengers out of London rather than Manchester. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

There are no reports of any injuries to either passengers or crew as a result of this incident. However, just to be safe, emergency response vehicles met the aircraft upon arrival.

And, maintenance personnel were quick to get onto the wing and try and see what happened.

United’s comment

Simple Flying reached out to United who provided the following statement:

Our team at Manchester Airport is providing assistance to customers of United flight 986, which diverted to Manchester Airport to address a mechanical issue and was subsequently cancelled. The aircraft landed safely at 2:03 p.m. (local time) and customers deplaned normally. We are making arrangements for our customers to complete their journeys as soon as possible and are providing meal vouchers and hotel accommodation.We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused.

Furthermore, United indicated that there were limited hotel accommodations for passengers in Manchester which is why London was chosen to handle the incoming passengers for the overnight stay.

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United sent passengers to London due to greater availability for overnight accommodation. Photo: Steve Lynes via Flickr

Not the plane’s first suspected fuel leak

According to data from Flightradar24, the aircraft operating this flight was registered as N642UA. This same aircraft, in November of 2019, also had to abandon a transatlantic crossing after a suspected fuel leak. In that case, the aircraft was flying from Brussels to Chicago when the crew diverted to Shannon.

United 767
N642UA, depicted above, also faced another diversion due to a suspected fuel leak. Photo: Mike Burdett via Flickr

Fuel leaks can become a serious emergency if a crew does not make the right decision. As always, in the case of air travel, better safe than sorry is a common saying. While it may cause some logistical issues for the airline and the crew, ultimately, getting passengers to their destination safely is the most important job for the airline and the flight crew.

Were you onboard UA986 to Chicago on December 15th? Share your experience with us in the comments!