The ferocity of the storm meant planes had to travel much further than usual to find a safe diversion airport to land, with some domestic flights being rerouted internationally.
A surprise trip to Paris is usually the stuff of romance novels. However, for more than a thousand air passengers on Sunday, a very unexpected trip to the City of Love read more like a horror story.
Storm Isha battered northern Europe over the weekend, bringing gusts of wind up to 99mph, and causing serious headaches for airlines and airports. Alongside more than 100 flight cancellations, the treacherous conditions forced many pilots to make huge diversions to their regular routes.
Data provided to Skift by Flightradar24 shows how dozens of routine journeys were upended, with some passengers landing in a completely different country more than 1,000 miles from their expected destination.
Landing at an alternative location when the original destination airport is unavailable is standard procedure. In fact, before every flight takes off, pilots must review and assign a range of official diversionary airfields should things go awry en route.
However, the sheer size of Storm Isha and its focus on densely populated areas in the U.K. and Ireland meant that flight crews had to fly much further than usual to land safely.
During the storm’s peak, many routine flights spiraled in length. Using the latest data from Flightradar24, here are seven of the most extreme Storm Isha diversions, including several unscheduled visits to Paris…
1. Manchester to Dublin: Diverted to Paris
On a normal day, the short hop across the Irish Sea should take just over half an hour. However, Sunday was anything but regular for those onboard Ryanair Flight FR555. After circling at low altitude for 45 minutes and an attempt at landing in Dublin, the Boeing 737 was rerouted to Beauvais Airport, 55 miles north of Paris. The plane and its passengers landed safely in France three hours after leaving Manchester, with onward transport eventually being provided.
2. Shannon to Edinburgh: Diverted to Cologne
Departing Ireland’s West Coast just before midday on Sunday, passengers were expecting a journey time of just under an hour for the trip to the Scottish capital. Storm Isha had other ideas. With the weather conditions deteriorating across the U.K. and Ireland, Flight FR3598 was forced to divert to Cologne after making circuits over Edinburgh. Travelers landed in the German city at 4 pm local time.
3. Edinburgh to Bristol: Diverted to Paris
An additional complication came for the poor passengers onboard easyJet Flight EZY319. The service linking Edinburgh and Bristol in southwest England fell victim to the storm, with a major detour required. Due to the lack of available diversion airports in the U.K., the Airbus plane was forced to divert internationally to Paris. Some customers reported on social media that as they hadn’t brought their passports for the domestic trip, they were not allowed to leave the airport in France and had to sleep overnight on the terminal floor.
4. Lanzarote to Dublin: Diverted to Bordeaux
A glass of Bordeaux mid-flight is usually a rather attractive proposition. However, for Irish holidaymakers heading home from the Spanish Canary Islands, Bordeaux was on the diversion list rather than the wine list. Flight FR5911 was halfway into its descent into Dublin when the decision was made to turn 180 degrees and head south for France. The jet landed around 90 minutes later.
5. London to Edinburgh: Diverted to Shannon
Another U.K. domestic shuttle service to make a surprise international diversion was Flight RK9817. The Boeing aircraft made two approaches to a stormy Edinburgh Airport before changing course and heading for Ireland. With conditions in Dublin also atrocious, the plane had to fly to the Atlantic Coast, where pilots made a safe landing in Shannon around 2:30 am – some four hours after the jet was due to depart London Stansted Airport.
6. Gran Canaria to Belfast: Diverted to Paris
Paris proved to be another safe haven for Flight LS372, flying from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to Belfast. Everything seemed to be going to plan for those aboard the Jet2.com Boeing 737 as it made its final descent into the Northern Irish city. However, at an altitude of 8,000 feet, the landing was aborted with a decision taken to divert. With so many usual alternate airports in the U.K. also being lashed by the storm, passengers had a surprise extension to their vacation with a rerouting to Paris. The aircraft landed in the French capital around five and a half hours after it left the Spanish holiday hotspot.
7. Copenhagen to Dublin: Diverted to Manchester and Liverpool
If you thought one diversion was bad enough, spare a thought for those onboard Fight FR633 from Copenhagen to Dublin. The service was first rerouted to Manchester in northern England. After four hours on the ground, the Boeing 737 took off again to make another attempt to reach the Irish capital. After a further three hours, the jet was diverted to Liverpool, barely 30 miles away from Manchester. Passengers were eventually accommodated on later services.
All of the airlines featured emphasized that safety is their top priority and that the extreme circumstances were outside their control. Ryanair said it “sincerely apologizes” to passengers affected by the storm disruption, while easyJet said it worked with authorities at diversion airports to ensure passengers were kept as comfortable as possible.
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