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WN Diversion Process

Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:38 pm

I just recently moved to COS and I've gotten to watch summer time thunderstorms disrupt DEN operations a couple times now and even got effected it myself a couple weeks ago flying DEN-LAS. I've noticed that when aircraft start diverting to places like COS and PUB, WN aircraft tend to spend more time on the ground than other carriers. For example, when I was flying DEN-LAS, our inbound flight diverted to PUB along with 2 UA aircraft. The two UA planes were wheels up as soon as the weather cleared. The WN flight was on the ground another 2 hours before it left.

So my question is this: Does WN not have sound procedures in place for when its aircraft have to divert to airports it doesn't serve? I could understand this if the diversion airport was by a small WN location but I would think for a place like DEN, they would have good processes in place for locations like COS and PUB so close to a major operation. Or possibly I've just noticed some anomalies...
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Re: WN Diversion Process

Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:12 pm

Do you know if the UA flights were going to the same destination as you were? It could be they were not and the cause of the diversion had cleared up. There could have been flow control into the original destination and UA had an earlier wheels up time. If you are basing it on one diversion, I wouldn't really worry about it. There is most likely a myriad of reasons all of which contribute to the delay.
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Re: WN Diversion Process

Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:29 pm

Given that DEN gets bad weather in the summer, I expect that WN has agreements in place for ground servicing at at least COS and PUB and maybe some other places too. WN aircraft can get in and out of PUB pretty quickly (note - can =/= always do). WN also has agreements at places like ORD and DFW where maintenance issues sometimes necessitate use of long runways. UA has handled them at ORD in the past, although I do not know the current handler.
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Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:09 am

Re: WN Diversion Process

Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:38 pm

COS/PUB are offline stations for WN. They must use contract ground handling for the diversions. This in and of itself slows things down as they are not regularly handled there.

COS/PUB also can take longer because a decent portion of the aircraft they send there are their weight critical birds. The 738 in particular with a full or near full boat at 184 seats becomes landing weight critical if you try to use anything outside of COS/PUB as an alternate. Even extra hold fuel can cause offloads so a good number of the full 738s that go to DEN are close to min fueled to get everyone on. These planes would likely need to wait for the weather to clear and ATC to clear them in before taking off from their alternate as the same problem would be incurred where they diverted unless a bunch of people decided to deplane. Other airlines can just fuel up and go back into the hold. Southwest like most airlines doesnt want a double diversion.

Another issue even for non-weight critical planes is the closest WN stations are AMA/ICT/SLC/ABQ and pilots particularly WN pilots like to have the alternates shorten up to COS/PUB to try to have extra holding fuel or they dont like flying all the way to the far alternates where the company has service. The problem is that when everyone doesnt make it in after shortening up, they are all stuck in the same diversion cities (COS/PUB) and this causes congestion. WN dispatch tries hard to limit these scenarios to avoid overloading certain alternates but they cannot force pilots to divert early to longer alternates.
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Re: WN Diversion Process

Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:40 am

Diversions can become quite the crapshoot. A good dispatcher/crew can make all the difference on the amount of time you spend on the ground. Having a good contact for fueling/paperwork as well as filing for the right departure time so that ATC is ready when the flight is can be meaningful.

What can really make a diversion messy is if there's a maintenance write up. Sometimes, something occurs early in the flight, and the crews go ahead and write up the issue so they don't forget about it - but once you land, you cannot depart again until that write up has been properly resolved (deferred, repaired, etc). I once had a ORD bound flight divert to MSN. Everything looked fine to gas and go back to ORD, except the crew discovered that the cockpit fire extinguisher was missing it's 2 inch safety locking pin, rendering that fire extinguisher useless and grounding the airplane. Turned out to be a federal case and a half trying to figure out the best way to get a valid fire extinguisher to the aircraft. MX ended up having a tech do a road trip, causing a 5 hour delay. All for a 2 inch piece of metal.

Bottom line - casual observations of ground time during diversions are an insufficient way to judge an airline's operations. Things happen.
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