Very long American Airlines flights to India

Very long American Airlines flights to India

American Airlines recently started flying to India. The airline is having some unique problems with this route, which is leading to very long flight times. One of those issues contributed to the flight having to divert to Gander today, so let’s go over the details.

American Airlines Russian Airspace Problem

American Airlines recently launched a route between New York (JFK) and Delhi (DEL) using a Boeing 777-300ER. At ~ 7,320 miles, this is a long flight to start with, but it is even longer because American Airlines has no right to use Russian airspace on this route.

The always informed @xJonNYC reports that this is because there are only certain periods when the Russian government accepts requests for the use of airspace, and I am assuming that American did not make the request at the right time. This is strange, because this route has been in the works for a long time. Apparently, the US management thought it would be easy to obtain these airspace rights since the airline uses Russian airspace for other routes, but not as much.

Typical American Airlines route between Delhi and New York

American’s inability to use Russian airspace has caused flight times to and from India to be about 90 minutes longer than necessary. For instance:

  • United Airlines flies between Newark and Delhi using a Boeing 777-300ER, and last week the eastbound flight time has been 12:30 to 13:18, while the westbound flight time has been 14:23 to 14:46
  • American Airlines flies between New York and Delhi using a Boeing 777-300ER, and last week the eastbound flight time has been 14h21 to 1441min, while the westbound flight time has been from 15 hr 37 min to 16 h 6 min

As you can see, that is a significant difference in flight times.

American Airlines Pilots Union Not Happy

American Airlines pilots are not satisfied with this new flight to India. Eric Ferguson, president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), recently wrote a letter to his fellow pilots about how management is again “trying to fix their flaws on the backs of our pilots.” How the letter begins:

“Poor planning by management does not constitute an emergency on the part of our pilots.”

Ferguson claims the new route has caused a series of contract violations and “egregious abuses” by flight crews. These failures are largely due to the carrier’s inability to obtain the Russian overflight permit.

Flights of this duration have four pilots, but American’s contract requires that flights longer than 16 hours have two captains and two first officers (instead of one captain and three first officers). All pilots are fully trained to fly the plane, so it’s all about money – captains earn more than first officers, so the more captains there are, the more money union members are paid.

American has allegedly been manning this flight with a captain and three first officers, claiming the flight lasts less than 16 hours. The union claims that this is not fair, as the flight usually lasts more than 16 hours due to the lack of rights in Russian airspace.

American Airlines First Class Boeing 777-300ER

The other statement is even more interesting:

“To compound these blatant errors, this morning, the crew scheduling called in an entire reserve crew (pilots and flight attendants) and assigned them to a standstill in Bangor, Maine, to sit in reserve in the middle of the night for days and days. in case the flight from Delhi was delayed in departure and had to stop at Bangor for re-dispatch and continue to JFK. Our contract does not allow the airport reservation, much less the airport reservation outside the base, point, stop “.

For those who have no idea what this refers to, essentially if there is a delay beyond a certain threshold, the crew would not be able to operate a flight for that long. That means the flight would have to be canceled or it would have to operate to a closer destination, where there could be a crew change. The latter is generally the most preferable solution.

I’m not sure what exactly to do with this:

  • Does American really ever require pilots to be on standby at the airport? And if so, why would the pilots have accepted this task?
  • Why would it be necessary to send crews to Bangor for days and days, since it is only a few hundred miles from New York? In case there is a delay, it looks like they could send a crew after the flight leaves Delhi …

American Airlines flight from Delhi to New York is diverted to Gander

Today’s American Airlines flight from Delhi to New York (AA293) was quite an adventure. Initially, the flight was scheduled to depart at 12:55 am, but the flight was delayed for about four hours on departure. As a result, the crew were unable to operate the flight to New York, and of course that was compounded by longer-than-necessary routing due to lack of rights to Russian airspace.

At the time, the choice was either to cancel the flight or have it diverted, so the decision was made to have the flight diverted to Gander’s (normally sleepy) airport … not to be confused with Bangor. The plane landed there at 10:24 a.m. local time and is scheduled to continue to New York with a new crew.

It appears that the relief crew will arrive on AA9783 from New York, a flight operated by an Airbus A321T (at least the crew will be comfortable, as the plane has 30 flat beds). That flight should only arrive at 12:15 pm, so it looks like Gander’s flight to New York will be delayed even further.

Speaking of a costly detour: American has to fly an A321 round trip to Gander just to transport the crew that will work the last hours of the flight to New York. Presumably the crew that worked on the Delhi flight will get on the A321, and they will head to New York on that.

American Airlines A321T First Class

Bottom line

The American Airlines flight from Delhi to New York was diverted to Gander today. A significant delay in departure meant that the crew would end the waiting time, so the choice was to cancel the flight or divert it to an intermediate point and have the crew change. American chose the last option.

The problem is only compounded by American’s inability to use Russian airspace, making flights significantly longer than usual. And that also puts the pilots in a bad mood.

These ultra-long-haul flights are certainly challenging, because any kind of significant departure delay can have serious implications for the crew’s ability to work throughout the flight.

Complicated stuff, huh?

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