Friday 23 March 2018

'Minor technical fault' on jet triggers 6,000-mile flight to nowhere

A British Airways Boeing 777. Stock photo
A British Airways Boeing 777. Stock photo

Simon Calder

A British Airways jet flying from Heathrow to Tokyo was more than halfway to its destination when it turned around and flew back to London.

Flight BA7 left the UK at noon on Thursday for Tokyo’s Narita airport, with passengers expecting to arrive 11 hours later. But as the Boeing 777 flew over northern Siberia, about 1,000 miles north of the city of Novosibirsk, it turned around and headed back to its starting point.

The plane arrived back at Heathrow at midnight, an hour after it was due to touch down in Tokyo, after a journey of more than 6,000 miles.

Passengers were given hotel rooms and flew out at 10.30am on Friday, after a delay of nearly 24 hours.

Flightradar24, a tracking service, initially said that the plane was diverting to Helsinki because of a medical emergency on board. It was later claimed on social media that a problem with the flight plan was to blame. On the outbound journey, the aircraft held for a time in eastern Finland just short of the Russian frontier.

But a spokesman for BA said “a minor technical fault” was responsible for the return to base.

The cost to the airline will run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Technical issues that result in a flight arriving three hours or more behind schedule trigger compensation payments under EU rules.

BA is expected to be liable to pay €600 (over £500) to each of the passengers on board. It owes the same obligation to all the passengers waiting in Tokyo to fly to London - a potential total bill of £300,000.

In addition, the airline must pay for the fuel burned on the “flight to nowhere,” and meet the cost of accommodating passengers in hotels at either end of the route.

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