Brussels Airlines was not lucky with its African flights recently: in just over one week, three flights had to be diverted for medical reasons, causing long delays. The latest diversion occurred last Sunday on a flight from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Brussels.
On 10 April, Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-300 registered OO-SFJ (sporting the Eurowings livery) left Brussels at 11:30 (UTC+2) on flight SN237 to Dakar, Senegal, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, scheduled to come back to Brussels via Dakar as SN238. No problem until Dakar where the plane landed on time. That’s where the trouble began.
Departure from Dakar was scheduled at 16:10 (UTC), but was delayed for an unknown reason. The delay was so long that the airline decided to make the flight a triangular one, thus flying to Freetown and from there directly to Brussels, skipping Dakar. The flight was also renamed SN1237. It left Dakar on 11 April at 00:15, arriving at Freetown at 01:30.
The departrure from Freetown occurred at 02:40 (UTC) and apparently the flight went smoothly. However, while flying over Spain at approximately 09:00 (UTC+2), the aircraft had to divert to Madrid for a medical emergency. Spokeswoman Maaike Andries of Brussels Airlines said to VRT News Channel: “our crew members have been trained to deal with such situations and have decided, as required by the procedure, to land at a nearby airport in the interest of the passenger.” In Madrid, the passenger eventually died shortly after landing.
The other passengers were grounded in Madrid for a long time. The plane did not leave again for Brussels until around 15:40, more than six hours after the aircraft had landed in Madrid. The crew on board had reached the maximum duty time and a new crew had to be flown from Brussels to Madrid.
Flight SN1237 finally landed in Brussels around 17:30, more than 12 hours behind the initial schedule of SN238.
On 31 March, flight SN369 from Yaounde to Brussels, operated by Airbus A330-300 registered OO-SFB (also in Eurowings livery), had to divert twice, first to Tamanrasset, Algeria, for a medical emergency and then to Marseille for duty time restrictions.
On the same day, flight SN203 from Brussels to Dakar, operated by Airbus A330-300 registered OO-SFG, diverted to Tenerife South for a life-saving medical emergency.