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maps4ltd
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Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Sun May 02, 2021 7:19 pm

As a string of thunderstorms pushed through Denver today, I saw Southwest and Delta planes divert to Pueblo (PUB), a city that neither airline currently serves. It reminded me of another instance a few days ago when a United 737 diverted to Rockford (RFD) after it couldn't land at ORD. So how common are these diversions to cities not served by the airline? Why divert there instead of a station the airline uses? I'm talking specifically about weather diversions, not cases where a transpacific flight needs to land at the nearest airport because of an onboard emergency or something.
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Bhoy
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Sun May 02, 2021 7:55 pm

Chances are Weather diversions will have been filed as Alternates on the flight plan anyway.

I know when LX still operated the Avro RJ, their flights to LCY were semi regularly diverted to STN, a station they didn't serve otherwise, if the crosswinds were too high for London City's steep approach. They had Mx and Ground Handling subcontracted there on standby for these cases. Since the A220 replaced the Avro, the windlimits aren't as restrictive.
 
MSJYOP28Apilot
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Sun May 02, 2021 8:12 pm

The easy answer is gas is expensive and Colorado has few good options besides COS if DEN has bad weather. Around DEN, there is COS and then a bunch of airport with mostly regional airline service. ABQ/ICT/SLC could be used but are a long distance and cost fuel money as well as cause landing weight issues on 737s with full flights so also would likely mean denying boarding to passengers for weight and balance.

COS fills up pretty quickly and gets overloaded so diversions need to be spread out.
 
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T18
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Sun May 02, 2021 8:18 pm

So, at my outfit we do not plan alternates for stations we have no service to if possible, although there are cases where a station has contract ops for another carrier who we may have a relationship with that will allow us to use them more or less like an online station. That does not mean in a pinch we cannot divert to an offline station, its just more a hassle as we likely will need to deal with ad hoc service from either an FBO or a provider like G2, Skywest or another contractor.
It is funny you mention PUB as I recall a diversion there that was an absolute nightmare for us as at the time we had no ops there and struggled to get our pax de-planned and the a/c fueled.
With all the reductions due to Covid, even online stations are no longer are sure bet anymore as some now are staffed only for the scheduled flights unless told otherwise, its an annoying wrinkle to add to alternate selection especially if you are dealing with a weight restricted flight as it is.
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MSJYOP28Apilot
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Sun May 02, 2021 8:26 pm

One thing to remember is for Part 121 domestic flights there is the 1-2-3 rule for alternates. Flag 121 have similar rules with the added rule that if the flight is longer than 6 hours an alternate is required regardless of weather. That means an alternate and fuel for it is required when the weather is nowhere near being at or below landing minimums.

So what airlines do to save money is find airports close to stations they serve authorized as alternates even though that airport may not have airline service and pay for some sort of fueling/handling service. For AA, AFW is frequently used as a DFW alternate. Ive seen some airlines use EFD for IAH. RFD/MKE are common for ORD. FNT for DTW. MGE for ATL. BFI for SEA.

While not ideal for diverting, these offline stations can do re-fueling and be used if needed.
 
Alias1024
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Mon May 03, 2021 12:13 am

maps4ltd wrote:
As a string of thunderstorms pushed through Denver today, I saw Southwest and Delta planes divert to Pueblo (PUB), a city that neither airline currently serves. It reminded me of another instance a few days ago when a United 737 diverted to Rockford (RFD) after it couldn't land at ORD. So how common are these diversions to cities not served by the airline? Why divert there instead of a station the airline uses? I'm talking specifically about weather diversions, not cases where a transpacific flight needs to land at the nearest airport because of an onboard emergency or something.


Not that common, but they happen, especially for unforecast weather or airport/runway closures. In those cases it’s simply a case of it being more conservative to land at the closer, offline station than going to an online station with minimum or emergency fuel. Some airports are particularly problematic due to few nearby stations. I’ve diverted twice from ABQ due to unforecast windshear to SAF and ROW, neither of which were served by the mainline carrier. I also came within a few minutes of heading to YMX due to construction and a disabled aircraft at YUL, and insufficient fuel to comfortably go to YOW or BTV.

As mentioned above, some times with bad weather they are planned by the airline due to nearby online stations getting overloaded.
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TWA772LR
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Mon May 03, 2021 12:44 am

Fairly often. When I was with WN in DEN, we had our diversions usually go to COS. This was before they started flying there. I've also seen a WN plane land in IAH because of (presumably) weather in HOU. It's not really a big deal, airlines do charters to odd places all the time and still have those ops work. Diverting to a major airport you don't serve wouldn't really be an issue.
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mls515
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Mon May 10, 2021 5:32 am

I diverted to KPUB in 2011 in an EMB-145. At the time, Great Lakes had a station there so they handled us and they even had a set of stairs for the -145. We didn't have an alternate, didn't need one technically but we started working it out when the thunderstorms popped up and we could see the need to divert coming well before we reached our bingo fuel. The best part was we were the first in there so we got stairs, got our pax off and TSA re-screened while the other diverts just had to sit there. I remember at least one E170, one SWA, one Frontier, maybe a mainline UAL and a couple other RJs ended up in KPUB after us. In addition to Great Lakes, the FBO there, Flower Aviation or something like that was handling the diversions as well. When KDEN opened back up we were the first out of there. When the storms popped up they took away KCOS as an option. If Pueblo hadn't worked out we were also looking at Alamosa.
 
jetmatt777
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Wed May 19, 2021 3:53 pm

Airlines usually setup ground handling and fueling agreements in likely diversion airports near their larger stations, even if it is unserved by them. It’s not a big deal.
 
flybaurlax
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Wed May 19, 2021 5:26 pm

Airlines often have contracts with logistics companies that figure out the ground handling portion. I know of a large operator that uses Spire for diversions. https://www.spireflight.com/en. They handle logistics of hard stands, fueling, towing, etc for airports that aren't served by that operator.
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dennypayne
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Re: Airlines diverting to stations they don't serve

Thu May 20, 2021 2:36 am

mls515 wrote:
I diverted to KPUB in 2011 in an EMB-145. At the time, Great Lakes had a station there so they handled us and they even had a set of stairs for the -145. We didn't have an alternate, didn't need one technically but we started working it out when the thunderstorms popped up and we could see the need to divert coming well before we reached our bingo fuel. The best part was we were the first in there so we got stairs, got our pax off and TSA re-screened while the other diverts just had to sit there. I remember at least one E170, one SWA, one Frontier, maybe a mainline UAL and a couple other RJs ended up in KPUB after us. In addition to Great Lakes, the FBO there, Flower Aviation or something like that was handling the diversions as well. When KDEN opened back up we were the first out of there. When the storms popped up they took away KCOS as an option. If Pueblo hadn't worked out we were also looking at Alamosa.


That wasn't by chance on July 6th was it? If so, I was on that E170 parked there, coming from DFW. :lol: I don't recall that it was that long of a diversion, perhaps an hour or so, but maybe I'm mis-remembering. I don't recall that we needed refueling or anything either, so there was no need for us to be handled I guess. But based on the other replies I suppose there would have at least been a chance that there was some sort of contract in place to have Great Lakes or the FBO engaged if needed.
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