Brussels Airlines passengers to New York stranded for a second night in European hotels

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On 19 November, Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-300 registered OO-SFG operating flight SN501 from Brussels to New York JFK diverted to Dublin after an engine failure.

Our operational teams in Brussels then started to lay the puzzle to get our 154 passengers to JFK as soon as possible on other flights and to arrange solutions for the overnight stay in Dublin, a station we don’t serve and where we have no local partners,” explained Maaike Andries, a spokesperson for Brussels Airlines, to Aviation24.be. The UK was not an option for rerouting the passengers, because of the Covid-19 measures.

The 154 passengers spent a night in Dublin hotels before being transferred by a Brussels Airlines Airbus A320 registered OO-SNL to Paris CDG, where they were supposed to catch one of the five flights going to New York JFK that day.

However, things didn’t work out as expected. In one hotel, passengers did not get their wake-up call and thus the A320 to Paris left Dublin with a serious delay. In Paris, all the flights to New York were overcrowded, days before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and couldn’t accommodate the additional passengers from Brussels Airlines. Hence, some of them spent a second night abroad in Paris hotels.

We have done our utmost to give care to our passengers in difficult circumstances … but unfortunately we could not provide an optimal solution to all. We very much regret the inconvenience this caused for our customers,” Maaike Andries said.

This incident raises a number of questions:

  1. Wasn’t there any spare Airbus A330 at Brussels Airlines or elsewhere in the Lufthansa Group that could have come to the rescue in Dublin?
  2. Why did the airline transfer passengers to Paris CDG (a SkyTeam hub with no Star Alliance flights to JFK that day) if all the passengers could not have a confirmed seat?
  3. If the passengers had to be transferred to a European hub, wouldn’t Frankfurt, Munich or Zurich (Star Alliance hubs) have been preferable?

Anyway, the incident will again be a costly experience for Brussels Airlines at a time when drastic cost savings are required.

UPDATE

We recently received the following additional information:

  1. Every passenger who spent the night in Dublin had a firm booking from Paris to New York, but the problem is that the airline had quite some problems assembling all passengers and board. So the A320 from Dublin arrived in CDG with almost 3 hours delay, resulting in misconnections. Seventy-one passengers could leave with an Air France flight. The others had to spend an extra overnight in Paris and were accommodated on various flights to New York this Sunday.
  2. Brussels Airlines showed proof of a lot of goodwill by ferrying its passengers to a Skyteam hub in order to get them to New York as soon as possible, as it was simply the option with the most available free seats.
  3. With a fleet of only 8 A330s of which only 7 operate in Winter, Brussels Airlines cannot offer a spare aircraft every day. Using a spare aircraft in the group is simply not workable, because the other airlines don’t necessarily have the spare capacity and it involves serious crewing problems.