American Diverts to Denver So Passengers Can Use Bathroom While Pit Crew Blasts Out Poop

This morning’s American Airlines flight AA662 from Charlotte to San Francisco had to divert to Denver so that passengers could use the bathroom. They had hundreds of miles to go before anyone could use a lav.

It’s not the first time a flight has had to do that this month. Just over a week ago a Delta flight had blue water running down the aisle and passengers desperately holding their legs together while they were ushered into a terminal in Salt Lake City before continuing onto Seattle.

The American flight makes for a crazy story, though. The pilot announced to passengers while over Kansas that they were going to divert because of a blockage in the lavatory system. It wasn’t just one lav backed up, or both that had gone inoperable. The whole system was constipated.

One reader who was on the aircraft figured they’d be on the ground for up to 3 hours. He arranged travel on another airline. That was a mistake. American turned around this diversion like I wish every airline would, every time.

While the Airbus A321 was inbound to Denver, American decided to pull an A321 off of American Airlines fligth AA420 to Philadelphia for the passengers to use to continue on to San Francisco. So Charlotte – San Francisco passengers arrived at their gate in Denver at 8:59 a.m. local time, offloaded and swapped to another plane, pushing back in the new aircraft at 10:37 a.m.

American Airlines Airbus A321

Meanwhile they went to work on repairs for the original plane so it could be used for the Philadelphia flight. An American Airlines spokesperson tells me that “[t]hey discovered a clog was in the rear Y-Duct… the maintenance team at Denver was able to push the clog through the system with an air blaster.” Now that is a ‘Dirty Job’ that even Mike Rowe wouldn’t want.

The Philadelphia flight was only delayed 20 minutes.

Smelly poo once caused a British Airways Dubai flight to return to London. Ever since that incident I’ve tried really hard not to think about that passenger causing that problem.

Washington National Airport Just Outside American Airlines B Pier Security Checkpoint

I’d hate to be the passenger who clogged up the system on this American Airlines A321. In fact I’d like to think it was just caused by flushing something down the toilet that doesn’t belong. Although who knows what got caught up inside of the Airbus A321 first delivered to US Airways in 2008.

Here I really do have to agree with American’s Ross Feinstein who says, “Kudos to our Denver team and our maintenance operations control in Fort Worth, who began troubleshooting before the A321 landed.”

They diverted to Denver but still got passengers to San Francisco less than two hours behind. Nicely done by the pit crew in Denver turning those planes so quickly, and willing to take one for the team to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Once I was flying GUM-HNL…a 7 hour flight over nowhere to divert except Midway…on a Continental 767 when the restrooms started going down one after the other. I think they lost six on that flight and they had to delay flying from HNL-IAH by a few hours to unblock the drains.

  2. I can hear it now… Ladies and gentlemen, is there a 24/7 plumber on board to help us unclog a ‘drain’?
    Large airplanes should have at least one lav that is unpluggable, and not connected to the others plumbing. Six restrooms should not be designed with one or two possible points of failure.
    Plumbing aboard a passenger aircraft should not be an afterthought in the design process.

  3. I was on AA420, we boarded late but made up time and only got to the gate 15 mins after schedule. That didn’t stop people panicking about connections though :rolleyes:

  4. I was a flight attendant for the friendly skies for twenty plus years. On Trans-con red-eyes or international overnighters, it was not unusual for passengers try to grab as many pillows and blankets during boarding and after all the carts are out of the aisles after the snack or meal service, to grab their haul of blankets and pillows and make themselves a nest in a lavatory for a good night of sleep. One night on a SFO-JFK red-eye on a 767 it was brought to my attention that a passenger had been in one of the lavs for over an hour. I knocked on the locked door; no response, another knock, nothing! It’s very easy to open the door if you know how to do it so I unlocked the door and this tall guy was sitting on the pillow padded commode wrapped in blankets leaning against a pillow padded mirror. I have a sense of humor and he was about 6’7″ tall so I told him he had to return to his seat but I understood his plight. We also had a flight from ORD-SFO where a woman locked herself in the lav and delivered a baby. It was a DC-10 so there were other lavs so no one noticed that she was in the lab for that lengthy period. The mother knew how to open the door to the trash and put the baby in the trash container. She returned to her seat, leaving the lab covered with blood and leaking out into the aisle. Fortunately this happened about twenty minutes out of SFO on final approach. Another passenger bravely rescued the
    Baby from the trash bin and we had both police and medics meet the aircraft.
    Flight attendants are taught the procedures for delivering a baby and occasionally it happens, however after an announcement is made asking if there is a doctor or medical professionals onboard there are usually knowledgeable helping hands.
    By the way, sanitary napkins really play havoc to aircraft plumbing… do cell phones!

  5. ” Just over a week ago a Delta flight had blue water running down the aisle and passengers desperately holding their legs together while they were ushered into a terminal in Salt Lake City …”Au contrarie Mr. Leff. The aircraft diverted to Billings.
    AND, there was no ‘blue water running down the aisles’. These are vacuum toilets on the 757 and the ‘blue water’ tanks are below floor level. Please don’t play loose with the facts for convenience sake.
    Thank you…

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