American’s 767 Reliability Issues Trap Zurich-Bound Passengers On the Ground in Frankfurt for 4 Hours

On Thursday American’s flight from Dallas to Beijing diverted due to a medical issue on board. When a passenger faces an issue grave enough to try to land the plane right away you want it to land right away. But instead of the Boeing 787 following the original plan to land in Edmonton, Canada they had to divert again — to Calgary — because of a mechanical issue. The second diversion gave them access to a longer runway. (HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

Another American Airlines international flight diverted this morning. American Airlines flight AA92 from Philadelphia to Zurich could not land “due to fog” according to a reader on board the aircraft. After circling the airport they flew to Frankfurt.

However Leonard B. tells me that once on the ground in Frankfurt they were unable to take off again for Zurich due to mechanical problems and an inability to find parts, but passengers were not permitted to deplane “due to customs” despite both Switzerland and Germany being a part of the Schengen Area. American normally flies Boeing 777-200s (from Dallas) and Airbus A330s (from Philadelphia) to Frankfurt, and not the Boeing 767 that diverted there.

When a plane has to divert you want the process to go as quickly as possible. At the end of a long transoceanic flight the last thing you want is to sit on the ground an extra four hours, not permitted to leave the aircraft. I have to feel especially for passengers in coach on that 767. American’s CEO himself says that plane is a bad experience and they know that their fleet of the aircraft has reliability issues.

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. Stuff like this happens ALL THE TIME ON EVERY AIRLINE. And usually it’s NOT REPORTED. Why waste any time on this?

  2. I disagree. Pretty obvious Jason that American Airlines has more issues than others. Just booked a flight in Spirit for a positioning flight because I can’t trust American in case of IROPS — especially now that they won’t endorse to other carriers. Rather fly Delta or United and actively book away from American. Thanks Gary for posting this story.

  3. So the 767 is clearly AA’s issue.

    But was the delay deplaning in Frankfurt AA’s choice? Or was it the German government? While both Germany and Switzerland are in the Schengen zone; Switzerland is not part of the European Customs Union, whereas Germany is. So there very well may have been customs issues that had nothing to do with immigration controls (Schengen). As another poster points out, customs and Schengen are different things.

    And to the poster that says “it’s obvious” that AA has more issues than other airlines. Well, if your only source of info is Gary, then sure. That’s because Gary loves to conflate things that have no relationship – like this 767 diversion and the 787 diversion to YYC.

  4. @Tim: Except they don’t, since this is a flight *to* the EU on a non-EU carrier. EC 261/2004 only applies for all flights operated by an EU carrier, and all flights *from* the EU on a non-EU carrier.

  5. This can’t be the whole story. I understand the diversion, but ZRH is CATIII equipped – I’ve landed there on DL under heavy fog and CATIII. So either the mechanical issues prevented the use of CATIII or the crew was not trained and current on that particular approach. Or the plane’s systems for CATIII were not fully functioning. And that I put on AA and its maintenance (or training).

  6. The message was mixed why we could not get off the flight. They said becuae they were not prepared for us and then said if i had no check bags they may have been able to get me off the flight since i had a one way ticket and i was continuing on to Berlin. Let me alao say the flight attendandts were very nice through the challange. The pilot kept us updated. Although and i dont know this for a fact in line with what Gary said, i belive they had a problem landing in zurich with the fog due to an equipment problem. Something about lights on the wings. As we were leaving anothe pasaanger was complaining about the plane in econmy and said she told the pilot the plane sounded likenit was falling apart. It is rare when i fly AA on long flights. I will do my best to avoid them for now.

  7. I was on AA93 from Zurich to Philadelphia Sunday. Our flight was delayed in taking off for 4 hours. When I called AA’s 800 number from Zurich airport to rebook my connecting flight in Philadelphia, the agent told me my flight was delayed because of mechanical problems. AA agent on the ground at Zurich said it was weather (fog). We were offered no vouchers for meals until 5 minutes before boarding the agent handed my wife and me each $20 vouchers for food we could not use. On arrival at PHL, the agent gave us a voucher for a hotel room, since we missed the last connecting flight home. We also each received a $12 voucher for “dinner”. Are we each due 600 euros for the flight delay under EU rules? If so, how do we apply for it? Thanks.

  8. @ Jim you were on the same as someone else called it Rustbucket I was on, you must have taken the same plane I had home. I learned today, no other flights were diverted due to fog onSaturday. It must have been because of mechanical problems. An entire day wasted due to the failure of AA to update their fleet.

  9. Rust bucket had no working WIFI. On the screen, 4 seats in the distance, they were playing ancient movies like Miss Congenitality and Oceans 11. Plus mediocre food.

  10. @Jim,

    AT least we had working wifi on the way from PHL to Zurich on Saturday, food was less than desirable. Had a Pizza from the terminal which was pretty good since Chickie ad Petes in A was closed.

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