When three Hawaii flights to/from San Diego, all experienced flight diversions crossing the Pacific. What causes these flight diversions?

Within 48-Hours, 3 Alaska Air Hawaii Flights Divert Over Pacific

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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

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86 thoughts on “Within 48-Hours, 3 Alaska Air Hawaii Flights Divert Over Pacific”

  1. Usually when a flight is turned around the airline’s PR department announces the cause: mechanical issue, passenger disruption or illness, etc. since they did not give any reason, Conspiracy Theory me thinks that the pilot or co-pilot had a medical issue. What kind of medical issue, you might ask? Gee, we know that all of the flight crews are vaxxed, otherwise they wouldn’t be employed. And we know that the vaxxes are causing heart issues including myocarditis, strokes, and heart attacks. It sure would be interesting to find out if pilot health was an issue….

    1. “…And we know that the vaxxes are causing heart issues…” I beg your pardon, Rob, but “we” do *not Know*. If you would be so kind, would you please cite your source(s) for this information? Big mahalos.

      1. This is standard anti-vaccination rhetoric. There is no truth in science and the original poster is making an improper inference, rooted in no fact. I would encourage the comment post monitors to delete this series of posts before it starts a myth of bigger proportions. When it comes to Hawaii, the island population deserves only the truth to protect their health, not rumor and innuendo.

        1. It’s the truth. He isn’t lying. He stating a fact. Geez, people. Now then worry about why we aren’t being told the truth. Why is this secret?

        2. Robert L – while I agree the poster is making an unsubstantiated claim, they still have the right to state their opinion. We have to trust that people reading this blog are intelligent and can discern for themselves what the truth is.

      2. See page 12. To me that is proof something is happening.

        1. The “In Memoriam” section”? What it shows is a number of deaths in June, July, and August of 2020, which is before Covid vaccines were available.
          It’s more likely that these deaths were partially due to Covid than to a vaccine that didn’t even exist at that time.

        2. Dee Dee are you talking about the number of pilot and retired pilot deaths in 2020 listed on page 12? Because the vaccine wasn’t out in October 2020 when that magazine article was published

      3. There are plenty of sources available actually – it doesn’t take much effort at all to find these. Start with the CDC VAERS reporting – it’s shocking actually. I wish you well.

    2. Oooh! You are reaching way out for that one!
      It would be more interesting if it were an auto-erotic misadventure in the cockpit. Rob, get over it brah…

      1. Okay, so I just have to reply to this post Earnly as it made me recall a certain scene in Airplane involving the auto pilot……

        Have a great day!

    3. Not true about all aircrews being vaccinated. A close friend is a Southwest pilot, not vaccinated. That airline, at least, is not making it a requirement.

        1. Not true, my hubby works for Southwest and they were all required to get vaccinated. There are multiple articles from October 2021 where a federal judge blocked the pilot union’s request to block the mandate. Southwest and other airlines are federal contractors and are subject to federal mandates.

  2. Alaska’s number 1 priority is safety. It would be interesting to know what caused these diversions (unruly passenger, mechanical issue, etc). Regardless, it’s good knowing Alaska did, and continues to do the right thing when it comes to the safety of it’s passengers and crew

    1. Alaska does what is required by FAA rules.
      The expression “alaska air does the right thing” is akin to “my car is my friend”

      1. Alaska’s number 1 priority is safety. So yes while they do need to abide by FAA rules and regulations (as do all US airlines) they also put the safety of passengers and crew at the forefront of everything they do

        1. FAA guidelines describe what is safe operation of airlines. You are praising alaska for doing something every airline must do.

        2. While this kind of marketing may reassure some individuals, it is FAA policy imposed upon all operators international and domestic who wish to file a flight plan including USA and it’s territories which compels operators to prioritise human safety as a condition of their certification.
          Alaska Airlines is no different than any other in that regard.
          If I may quote:
          “FAA MISSION
          Our enduring mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aviation system in the world.“

          Just trying to help.

  3. Hello, wondering if the 737- 800 is malfunctioning, it will be interesting to find out the causes of the diversions. Thank you

  4. Pilots themselves have reported that many of them are sick or injured due to the Covid vaccine. Could this be the cause?

    1. This is ridiculous. I’m a pilot and I have yet to work with a single other pilot who has made the claim you’re making.

      1. ummm…Im a commercial airline pilot and Ive been out on medical for a year with heart issues. Problem occurred shortly after second shot. Now you know one.

  5. seems like there all 737 800 ….maybe they need to think about grounding those planes again ….. thank you for the information you guys put out there… mahalo

    1. The 800s were never grounded as a whole, they’ve been operating since the late 90s with an overall excellent safety record. A couple of airlines have grounded theirs briefly due to maintenance issues that are the result of the airlines trying to cut costs and corners, but not anything to do with the design of the aircraft itself.

  6. We were turned around after 2 hours from Honolulu to San Diego due to, they said a piece of the plane was coming lose, like a door.

  7. Oh and they all just happen to be Boeing 737 Max eight… When will they be permanently grounded globally? Me or my family will never ever fly on one.

    1. No. Re-read the article. They are all Alaskan Airlines 737-800s, not MAX8s. 800s are the “Next Gen” family, not MAX family.

    2. Haven’t heard about any A321s or 330s turning around over the big drink for a while have you? Or 777s?
      (and no, airlines don’t need to disclose reasons for a diversion)

      Thanks Hawaiian Airlines for pulling off in the run up area at OGG to make absolutely certain that we were ready to be over water for 5 hours. I’ll go with Hawaiian or United when I need to get to Hawaii.

      1. Alaska doesn’t fly Airbus over water.. not ETOPS. Alaska is one of the top airlines in safety and on time arrival. The STATs are there. Do the research. I’m sure those passengers were very thankful they turned around and made sure everything was secure and safe instead of pushing through. Put the passengers and their safety first. If someone is having a medical concern turn around don’t keep going. That’s the difference with Alaska.. doing what’s right.

  8. Going back to the past on diversions, these were rare to hear. But with ETOPS as the standard rule for operating flights between the mainland and Hawaii, even the most minor mechanical items that wouldn’t be an issue on an overland flight will be a big issue on a transpacific route. Being close to the halfway point when these happen causes even more anxiety. But at the end, the rules of what constitutes a turn around and fly back for whatever reason is much more set these days than even during the 707, 747, DC-10 or L-1011 days.

      1. Given that the -800s were built before Boeing outsourced and were built at their Renton, WA facility I’d say it is working out OK. Mayne the fact that they are all Alaskan -800s might have more to do with it given Alaskan’s maintenance issues in the past.

        1. What maintenance issues? If you are talking about flight 261, the issues that contributed to that tragic crash have long been rectified. The aircraft mechanics at Alaska Airlines (as well as all other major airlines) take their jobs very seriously and perform each job per the applicable manuals to ensure every aircraft is ready for safe flight

        2. Nice try do a bit of research they started outsourcing As far back as 2000 with hcl with Rockwell and others and
          and the first 787 rolled out in 2012. They came out of South Carolina.

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