We don’t know about you, but we worry anytime there is a flight diversion on a Hawaii flight. The cause of the following diversions isn’t clear. The most obvious are mechanical, medical, and passenger issues, as detailed below. This all happened last week, within a 48-hour period, and involved flights between San Diego and Hawaii. As noted below, these issues all occurred on 737-800 aircraft, not the 737MAX-8 associated with the recent Southwest diversions.
The good news is that all flights landed safely, and passengers ultimately got to where they were going. Kudos to Alaska Airlines! This news, however, came as quite a surprise following yesterday’s article about three Southwest Hawaii flight diversions. To have to report on five such diversions in one day is highly unusual.
Were you on any of these three Alaska flights? All diverted within 48 hours over the Pacific.
- Monday, August 8, Alaska Flight 806, from Maui to San Diego. It departed at 2:50 PM and had a flight diversion that took place at close to 2 hours in flight towards the west coast. The flight, onboard a Boeing 737-800, returned to Hawaii, landing at Honolulu. at 5:56 PM. The cause of the problem is unknown.
- Tuesday, August 9, Alaska Flight 9201, from Honolulu to San Diego. Unbelievably, that flight suffered the same flight diversion fate as their prior fight 806. The Boeing 737-800 departed Honolulu at 9:48 AM and returned to Honolulu just shy of three hours later at 11:31 AM. If you notice the unusual flight number 9201, that appears to normally be used when it’s a special flight created by Alaska.
- Wednesday, August 10, Alaska Flight 895 from San Diego to Honolulu. A flight diversion was called en route, and the 737-800 aircraft returned to San Diego at 1:37 PM, just one hour later.
What causes mid-Pacific Hawaii flight diversions?
We hope to learn more about the cause of last week’s flight diversions. The last thing airlines want to do is to divert an aircraft. It is frightening, it is annoying, and it is expensive. Sometimes, however, circumstances beyond anyone’s control can result in an aircraft diverting to a different airport than the one planned.
When a diversion occurs, the airline will either resume the same flight when the causal issue is resolved or will terminate the flight and either create a new flight (AS9201) or move passengers to other flights.
One of the causes of flight diversions is the weather, and we’ve encountered those ourselves. They are rare, however, on flights to Hawaii. As an example, a flight your editors were traveling on from New York to San Jose made a weather-related diversion and ended up in Boise Idaho due to severe summer storms that prevented the flight from operating normally.
Flight diversions for mechanical reasons.
Sometimes things just break or give the appearance of being broken. That takes on special meaning mid-Pacific, over the world’s longest open ocean flights without a diversion point. So if the flight crew suspects a problem, they will immediately diagnose it and make the determination as to whether it is safer to continue or to turn back. When turning back soon after take-off, fuel can be an issue and may need to be dumped.
Flight diversions for medical issues.
Airlines are both very well equipped and trained to deal with mid-air medical emergencies. In addition, airliners heaving invest in telemedicine to provide the highest possible level of medical evaluation. That is an adjunct or replacement to the question of whether there is a doctor or nurse onboard.
Flight diversions caused by passenger disruptions.
When Hawaii airline passengers are unruly or are deemed to pose a threat to the safety of other passengers and crew, diversion may be indicated.
Planning for a diversion.
Since this can happen at any time, you definitely want to fly prepared. Having everything that you need, including for example, prescription medicines, snacks, and whatever else you deem a necessity, can prove to be very important.
We are always glad to be beyond the halfway point to Hawaii since that assures you that a diversion will not occur. We’ve personally been on board and witnessed many a close call for mechanical and medical reasons, but haven’t actually experienced a mid-Pacific flight diversion. Have you?
Hat tip to BOH regular commenter Jeff L.