American Airlines Flights To Guyana Keep Diverting

Filed Under: American

American Airlines has just launched a new daily, year-round flight between New York JFK and Georgetown, Guyana. This route launched on December 18, 2019, and represents American Airlines’ second route to Guyana, as the airline started flying from Miami to Georgetown in 2018.

Basics Of American’s New York To Guyana Route

The ~2,568 mile JFK to GEO route is operated using a Boeing 737-800, with the following schedule:

AA2896 New York to Georgetown departing 6:00PM arriving 12:38AM (+1 day)
AA2897 Georgetown to New York departing 1:44AM arriving 6:55AM

It’s blocked at 5hr38min southbound and 6hr11min northbound.

Unfortunately American Airlines’ launch to Guyana can only be described as a bit of a hot mess, and it reminds me of the issues that Turkish Airlines has been having in Nigeria.

Huge Diversions & Delays With Georgetown Flights

As noted by @AirlineFlyer, since the route has launched on December 18, it has had quite a few problems.

Looking at Flightradar24 data of the New York to Georgetown flights:

  • On December 18 the flight diverted to San Juan, and ended up landing in Georgetown at 3:47AM (over three hours late)
  • On December 19 the flight was delayed by about two hours
  • On December 21 the flight was delayed by about three hours
  • On December 22 the flight diverted to San Juan, and ended up landing in Georgetown over an hour late
  • On December 23 the flight diverted to San Juan, and ended up landing in Georgetown over an hour late

So yeah, in just over a week of operation, the flight diverted to San Juan three times, and was significantly delayed on a couple of other flights as well.

Unfortunately in the other direction performance wasn’t much better:

  • On December 19 the flight diverted to Miami, and then the onwards flight from Miami to New York was canceled
  • On December 21 the flight was delayed by about an hour
  • On December 22 the flight was delayed by about eight hours
  • On December 23 the flight was delayed by over an hour
  • On December 25 the flight diverted to San Juan, and landed in New York about two hours late

What’s Causing These Problems?

On the surface American Airlines shouldn’t be having any issues operating these flights. A 737-800 can easily fly 2,586 miles nonstop, even with sufficient fuel reserves.

737-800s operate flights of this length every single day, including many transcon flights that are even marginally longer.

So why is this route specifically causing issues? I’m working on chasing down an exact answer, though it seems highly likely that this comes down to some sort of a weight restriction on the flight.

It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with crews timing out, since it’s my understanding that crews working these flights are operating just one sector days, so they should be nowhere close to timing out, even with a delay or diversion (at least to Georgetown — redeyes often come with different rules, though).

So what could be causing these weight restrictions? It’s my understanding that there are a few issues:

  • This flight is mostly overwater, and given the geography of Guyana and diversion points, they need to operate with more fuel reserves than your standard domestic flight
  • The flight was full before Christmas, and even though there are checked bag fees, significantly more people have been checking bags than your typical domestic flight
  • American has densely configured 737-800s, so these 172 seat 737-800s are “heavy” to begin with
  • Presumably the long takeoff queues out of JFK have also led to increased fuel burn/range issues
  • I imagine fewer people are checking bags from Guyana to the US, and on top of that flights probably haven’t been quite as full, as many people are presumably traveling to Guyana for the holidays to see family; there has only been one diversion departing Guyana

Interestingly Caribbean Airlines also flies nonstop from New York to Georgetown with a 737-800, and they don’t have issues. However, their 737-800s have only 150 seats, so I imagine the difference of 22 seats greatly impacts the operating performance.

What’s interesting is that even though American hasn’t consistently scheduled their “Oasis” 737s on this route, all three of the diversions have been on Oasis 737s. That’s in spite of the fact that fewer than half of American 737s are in this configuration. So I imagine that’s not a coincidence.

American Airlines’ Solution

It’s my understanding that American Airlines has now capacity restricted this flight, meaning that they’re not selling all the seats on this flight. Not only are they restricting the capacity on Oasis planes, but they’re actually restricting capacity beyond that. That should solve the issue and prevent diversions going forward.

While it’s hardly an excuse, it’s worth noting that none of this would have likely been an issue if the 737 MAX 8 were flying, as the plane has more range. Then again, none of this would be an issue if American didn’t have their densified 737s, which are causing the problem.

Bottom Line

American has had several diversions of their new New York to Georgetown flight, presumably due to weight restrictions. It’s bizarre to me that American has been operating their “Oasis” 737s on most of their flights to Georgetown, given that those are the densest planes, and every diversion has been on one of these planes.

Did they not properly anticipate the number of checked bags and/or cargo on the flight, or how exactly could this happen? If they did proper planning you’d think they would at least have scheduled the less dense version of the 737.

It seems American has solved this issue by capacity restricting the flight, though that’s also not exactly great for the economics of a low yield leisure route…

Comments
  1. Could also be that fuel is hard to come by in GEO. Just looking at the pattern (SJU a regular stop) it looks like they’re topping up there in order to avoid refueling in GEO…

  2. I don’t think the flight diverted to Miami on Dec 19 after all, it’s showing that it did end up landing at JFK (although it was 14 hours late…)

  3. Anyone who has ever flown on a flight from the US to any South American country should know that those passengers who are returning to their home country invariably show up with two oversized suitcases to check and the largest possible carryons. It’s a luggage nightmare.

  4. Bags could be just as heavy flying back to the US from Guyana. When I travel to Jamaica, I bring gifts, when I travel home to the US I bring a suitcase of roasted breadfruit, spices, coffee, etc.

  5. “Please explain to me the rationale behind a flight departing NYC at 6:00pm and landing after midnight??”

    It’s called connecting passengers into JFK.

  6. Mardi: Can you please give us a follow-up post about how you get all those agricultural products through US customs? Thanks!

  7. Adding 22 seats of passengers and even if they brought on 50lbs of luggage, won’t make a dent in the operations of the airplane itself.

    I don’t get why you think that. It could, in theory, take a few more minutes to service. I once heard that the passengers and their luggage add only 10% to the total weight of a plane at takeoff.

    The excess fuel burn theory is a possibility but given the fact that the costs of cancelling or diverting the flight are very high, it’s cheaper to add more fuel than to keep diverting. “Topping up” could make sense, but then it should be sold as a JFK-SJU-GEO flight as AA has dropped all their n/s JFK-SJU flights and could very well sell seats on that segment. That would also make managing the flight a lot easier from a scheduling perspective.

    There has to be a bigger problem at hand, but what that is…. is anyone’s guess.

  8. @ BC — Male passengers are assumed to be 200 pounds, so if each of those passengers is checking two 50 pound bags, 22 extra seats could add 6,600 pounds to the weight of the plane. That’s potentially nearly 4% of the maximum takeoff weight of the plane (and a significantly higher percentage of the variable weight), and when we’re talking about a flight of this length, it absolutely could impact whether or not the plane is technically within limits.

  9. “I once heard that the passengers and their luggage add only 10% to the total weight of a plane at takeoff.”

    You were told incorrectly – certainly for the 737-800. The max takeoff weight for the -800 is 174,200 lbs, and can easily have 40,000 lbs of pax, bags and freight.

  10. @Mark – there’s no connecting passengers (or very few). New York and Miami have the two (and really only) diasporas of Guyanese people in the U.S. This flight is ALL O/D New York – Guyana passengers. the reason it flies overnight is because this is when AA has time to fly it. The passengers will come whenever there’s a flight. it has NOTHING to do with connectivity beyond NYC as I’d wager that over 90% are just going to / from NYC.

  11. @Jason, and here I am, happy that AA started this flight, because it gives me such a convenient connection HEL-JFK-GEO. But yeah, I do realise there are probably very few Finns who consider having a vacation in Guyana…

  12. Sounds like an issue with the aircraft’s maximum zero fuel weight (ZFW), which as its name implies, is the weight of everything except for the fuel. Another weight limitation likely involved is the aircraft’s maximum landing weight (MLW). If the ZFW and amount of fuel required (to get there, alternate, reserve) would have the flight arrive at destination, then some weight (either payload or fuel) has to be removed. Restricting the number of pax can reduce the ZFW such that flight can be completed.

  13. Lol, it obviously comes down to the fact that US airlines do what they do best- solely concentrating on profits. They couldn’t care less how the flights perform because they know people will fly it – especially ones that live in a city owned by one of the airlines. Why anyone would go with AA on this route and not Caribbean Airlines is beyond me.

  14. “I have no idea what’s going on, but let me write an article pretending to be an aviation expert anyways”

  15. Its ow weight restricted. Its brilliant that AA started this flight . Even better for us that its leaving early as we can connect to Guyana from Europe . Group of 7 going next month for business meeting. London -Newyork- Guyana All on AA métal !!! Brilliant

  16. @Jason You’re thinking a bit too narrowly. As Anzal alluded to London-NYC-GEO will see pretty strong demand. Strong being relative as Guyana has ~800K residents.
    @Dennis. An 8 hour delay impacts other downstream flights. I doubt AA wants that.

  17. AA is not using Oasised 738s now from JFK. So of the 160 capacity they are only selling 140 seats going forward. Only AA could have this kind of a debacle. Did they not see large #s of checked bags on the MIA GEO flight that’s been operating? Head scratcher. Also, FWIW, they are selling 171 of 172 on MIA, presumably for a mechanic

  18. It’s fixed now. Last two days flight operated on time. Caribbean Airlines only have 150 seats so they would not have the problem.

    JetBlue has had to divert with their A320 transcontinental flights before. Many a 757 divert westbound transatlantic in winter and there was nary a write up about either of these.

    Anything negative to write about I guess fits the narrative.

  19. If the flights were overweight, why wouldn’t they just deny boarding to a few of the passengers? And how does it explain the majority of the delays which didn’t involve diversions?

    I feel like I’m missing something here?

  20. I’ve been an American Airlines pilot for 34 years and a Captain for over 24 of those years. It is hard for me to say this, but this is simply a case of American Airlines management failing it’s employees and, more importantly, it’s passengers.

  21. Why anyone would visit that place is beyond me. Bunch of dope smokers, ritalin abusing, starbucks drinking, video game playing, xbox playing, adult movie watching addicts

  22. @Callum good call on the deny boarding a few passengers. You fat Americans weigh about 400 pounds these days so only a couple are necessary to get the flight ready to go!

  23. American Airlines’ densification of 738s that they then use on JFK-GEO flights on a capacity-restricted basis is *the* pinnacle of American Airlines irony in 2019

  24. John!.
    American is importing all the dope and makes all the videos games, and there coming for the oil, in Guyana that was discovered in 2015. that’s the reason for coming Guyana. Don’t BS…U sound dumb!

  25. Its simple math really. The 737-800 aircraft that AA is flying holds 172 people. Its empty operating weight is approximately 95,200lbs now add 40,000lbs of payload and 42,000lbs of fuel. Add that up and you get 177,200lbs. The aircrafts max allowable takeoff weight is 174,200. So you max out the seats, payload and fuel and you are 3000lbs over the aircraft’s max allowable takeoff weight.
    It doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure this out.

  26. Guys,

    every one can relax now as the problem is fixed. Last three days flights operated non-stop both directions and on time.

    Time to find something new to talk about.

    Cheers!

  27. ryby = AA management…
    And you’re right. There will be new service soon that will not be properly analyzed, but will be fixed a week or two after the inaugural flight.. Move along..

  28. Better not to mention the Máx 8 RIP, already created enough pain.
    So basically the only problem is that they can’t figure out how much fuel thei plane is gonna burn?, not a good sign. Do not take planes to the límits, there are people inside those planes.

  29. @John – I’m confused – are you talking about New York? Or Chicago?

    And EL OH EL at America West’s incompetent management as per usual. First they remove so many J seats from the 788 that they can’t use them to LHR. Now the Oasis BS is finally biting them in the @$$ somewhat. Not that Dougie cares.

  30. @ Mark
    For the most part, all airlines pay the same for planes, fuel and even wages. One variable is when they can operate that plane for more hours per day. Two overnight flights during which the plane would mostly be left on the ground makes sense and money.

    Of course I will admit the above rules are not absolute, Delta bought old MD-80 planes that consumed more fuel but cost them pennies, then they bought their own refinery,LOL.

  31. American, has been in the Caribbean long enough and should have known better. Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados are notorious barrel shippers. The Diaspora that visit and return back come down with large suitcases or barrels packed with items for family, they return with hard to find items from their home countries. Every airline in the Caribbean deals with this problem. I am from Jamaica and I cannot tell you the amount of luggage we would travel with for only a week.

  32. I’d travelled on the 22nd to Guyana and I was extremely disappointed with this airline. I paid for a non stop flight and end up in San Juan for over am hour. Didn’t know of the stop over until someone had mentioned it in a conversation I’d over heard. The seats are cramped which reminds me of SPIRIT AIRLINE.
    I’m 5′ 10 ” when I got off that flight I was angry for I felt there wasn’t any consideration given to passengers. It’s just a money thing. You have just under 2000 passenger. You are given a chicken rap when asked if there’s an alternative, since I don’t eat chicken, I was bluntly told “NO” and the hostess walked away.
    $30 1st check baggage $40 for the 2nd. We were like sardines packed to capacity. I felt as though this airline thinks GUYANESE OWES SOMETHING what it is I would like to know.

  33. “it’s worth noting that none of this would have likely been an issue if the 737 MAX 8 were flying, as the plane has more range.”

    Better a diversion than a crash on take off.

  34. Uncle Al is exactly right. I am a mechanic for American Airlines at DFW. Since the USairways acquisition, things have gone completely downhill. American does not care for passengers or employees. Their management style, and system, is a complete embarrassment for me as a 25 year employee……I keep telling my co-workers….8 more years and they can have it…if they survive that long.

  35. “US airlines do what they do best- solely concentrating on profits”
    @Dennis, Sure, Dennis, and airlines from the rest of the world are only concerned with giving away free seats to the most needy. Let’s all smile and lean our heads sideways.

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