Delta Air Lines U-Turn Emergency: “We Had Diarrhea All The Way Through The Airplane”

Delta Air Lines flight 194 form Atlanta to Barcelona turned around Friday night after a passenger let loose diarrhea throughout the aircraft. The Airbus A350 was two hours into its flight to Spain when a pilot told air traffic control about a “biohazard issue” that necessitated an immediate u-turn.

The flight was over Virginia when the airline told the pilots to turn back. Passengers returned to Atlanta and waited while Delta cleaned the aircraft and found a new crew (as the original one timed out). They were sent on their way using the same plane at 2:57 a.m. Saturday morning.

The flight was delayed eight hours, and passengers finally arrived in Barcelona at 5:10 p.m. According to the FAA flight strip: “Divert to ATL — passenger diarrhea all over aircraft — biohazard” and this was confirmed by air traffic control conversations, “It’s just a biohazard issue, we had a passenger who had diarrhea all the way through the airplane.”

As the captain of the aircraft, I think I’d have lost it when air traffic control told me I was number two for landing.

Oddly, it’s Washington’s National airport and not Atlanta with a Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Somehow I would have wanted a longer delay for a more thorough cleaning of the aircraft, but I haven’t seen photos of the incident or complaints from passengers about lingering brown spots, so perhaps the “biohazard” was dealt with sufficiently. Believe it or not this is hardly the first time that a passenger’s poop caused a U.S. airline to divert.

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. Sh*t happens! Wonder if DL will put passenger on no fly list? New elite status – ‘brown medallion’?

  2. My son was on the flight (it was my Twitter post to Delta used by Thenewarea51). I have a picture of the scene from the aisle of the plane as well if interested. To Delta’s credit they actually replaced the carpet and impacted seat. Still not ideal obviously but better than a cleaning.

  3. Airline seat and tray tables are the nastiest thing you can imagine. Its a wonder a passenger doesnt end up growing a third eye.

  4. @ derek – I think this is one of those few occasions where sharing (or taking) pictures is not good for anyone.

  5. When the s*** hits the turbofan. No offense, but fly Air France or Air India. It would definitely have masked the smell.

  6. Future advertising slogans:

    Delta has a run on its competition.

    Delta – A change is in the air. You can smell it.

    What’s worse than an explosive, uncontained engine failure? An explosive, uncontained passenger. At Delta, we’re trained to deal with any inflight emergency, be it an engine loss, or a code brown.

  7. The comments here remind me of the quote, “Never rejoice in the misfortunes of others”.

    Who knows? Maybe someone will tell you that needless and preventable suffering and death can only occur after the truth that life is most important is dismissed and stifled.

  8. Sometimes people need medicine that can cause severe diarrhea as a side effect. Some chemo therapies have that. so… I’m very sorry for the sick person to have to experience that in the plane. I hope he/she/it gets a full recovery

  9. Since this happened on Delta, where is Tim Dunne’s position on diarrhea on Delta as compared to UA and AA?

  10. In all seriousness, how can the diarrhea be “all throughout the aircraft”? Airplanes are pretty big. Even on my worst day, if I pulled off all my clothes and ran up and down the center aisle, trying to spread my “biohazard” as widely as I could, I still do not think I could have diarrhea “all throughout the aircraft.” What actually happened here? I’m not sure I’m grasping the actual situation.

  11. “Somehow I would have wanted a longer delay for a more thorough cleaning of the aircraft“

    Anyone who has kids or a dog knows it doesn’t take 8 hours to clean up poop on a carpet…

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