Ouch: American Airlines’ 12-Hour Flight From DFW To LAX

Ouch: American Airlines’ 12-Hour Flight From DFW To LAX

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As noted by the always observant @xJonNYC, An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 spent nearly 12 hours in the air flying from Dallas to Los Angeles. As you might expect, the plane wasn’t flying at 100 miles per hour, but rather there’s more to the story. 😉

American 787 turns around halfway over the Pacific

On Saturday, May 28, 2022, American Airlines flight AA61 was scheduled to operate from Dallas (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT). The flight was operated by a roughly three year old Boeing 787-9 with the registration code N838AA. The 6,427-mile flight is blocked at 12hr55min, so it’s one of American’s longer flights.

The flight departed more or less as planned, and spent well over seven hours on the standard course toward Narita, flying northwest to Washington, and then starting the Pacific crossing there, staying south of Alaska.

However, around 7hr25min after takeoff, shortly before reaching the International Date Line, the plane turned around back in the direction of the mainland. At this point the decision was made to fly to Los Angeles (LAX), and the plane landed there roughly 4hr20min after making its eastbound turn.

When all was said and done, the plane was in the air for roughly 11hr50min, yet was only 1,235 miles from its origin. It’s not often you see a flight path like the below!

The flight path for AA61 (credit: Flightradar24)

Why did Tokyo-bound flight divert to Los Angeles?

This American Airlines flight was canceled “due to weather conditions,” according to notes associated with the flight status. More specifically, this was due to a volcanic eruption.

https://twitter.com/GillyH2o/status/1530775338124333057

There was a volcano that erupted in Bezymianny in Russia, which is a peninsula on the east coast of Russia. While US airlines don’t use Russian airspace, this is on the Pacific Ocean, not far from where most airlines crossing the Pacific would fly.

Of course safety is always paramount, and the ash from volcanoes can impact airplanes. That being said, it’s interesting that this American flight was (best I can tell) the only one that had to turn around halfway across the Pacific. That’s despite the fact that there were several other similarly timed flights.

For example, United Airlines flight UA837 from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (NRT) was scheduled to arrive around the same time. The plane still completed its flight, though the flight time was roughly an hour longer than usual (11hr10min vs. 10hr11min the previous day) due to a rerouting, as it flew further south than usual.

The flight path for UA837 (credit: Flightradar24)

Similarly, United Airlines flight UA7 from Houston (IAH) to Tokyo (NRT) was scheduled to arrive around the same time. The plane still completed its flight, and the flight time was also roughly an hour longer than usual (13hr55min vs. 12hr55min the previous day) due to a rerouting.

The flight path for UA7 (credit: Flightradar24)

Of course the logical question is why American had to return to the United States while other airlines didn’t? I figure there are a couple most likely explanations:

  • Did American not load enough fuel, meaning that there wasn’t enough fuel to safely take the longer routing without eating into reserves?
  • Was American just more conservative, and worried the volcanic eruption might become a major issue, and it didn’t want a plane stuck in Japan?

American’s AA61 is operating as usual today, so it seems like this problem as pretty quickly solved.

Bottom line

Yesterday’s American Airlines flight from Dallas to Tokyo diverted to Los Angeles, and that decision was made roughly halfway over the Pacific. In the end the flight spent around 12 hours in the air, and only flew the short distance from DFW to LAX.

This allegedly happened due to a volcanic eruption, which impacted the routes airlines could take. Other airlines managed to alter their flight plans even after takeoff and continue the journey to Japan, while American decided to turn back.

What do you make of this American flight from DFW to LAX?

Conversations (74)
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  1. Bobby Metzinger Guest

    This happened to me in Nov 2016 DFW-HKG, turned around over rural Alberta and back to DFW. 777.

  2. Mike Guest

    Same flight (AA61) just diverted to Seatac.

  3. Daniel Guest

    I'm sure that opinions about diverting/ rerouting is proportionate to wether you're reading about this or actually on the aircraft.

  4. Jeff Guest

    I think they probably ran out of alcohol on board.

  5. Christopher Guest

    Safety first.interest on those planes are outrageous.a little inconvenience but safety without question

  6. Mrs. Fannie Teresa Stevens Halofaki Guest

    Better safe than sorry. Go with your gut feelings Pilots.
    Preventing collision is your N0.1 priority.

    Safety first all the time and every time.

  7. Nelson Guest

    You’ll never get the truth from AA whatever the reason they’ll tell you something else period

  8. Zeev Guest

    I salute AA !!
    No meter what , safety comes before everything. Gives me more confidence at them.

  9. Ser Guest

    Why do you complain about the hours of the flight rather say thank God we landed safely.
    You don't see the bottom line
    Damn people always complain.

  10. David Ryan Guest

    Just a question, how did American finally get the flight to Narita?

  11. Keith Guest

    I for one would rather be delayed and alive than trying to be on time but dead. American Airlines based that decision on facts and safety first.

  12. RonW Guest

    So many Monday morning QBs that don't even know what football is, let alone how to play.

    Let's start with the author's poor assumptions. The most egregious is that a UA flight from SFO and a AA flight from DFW are analogous. Both flights do depart from airports that have long runways. That means that both aircraft can take off at the maximum certified takeoff weight (most likely), but the flight from DFW had to...

    So many Monday morning QBs that don't even know what football is, let alone how to play.

    Let's start with the author's poor assumptions. The most egregious is that a UA flight from SFO and a AA flight from DFW are analogous. Both flights do depart from airports that have long runways. That means that both aircraft can take off at the maximum certified takeoff weight (most likely), but the flight from DFW had to fly four hours to get to SFO. That four hours of fuel would have made it much easier for the AA flight from DFW to get to NRT much like the UA flight did. Comparing the two and using that to "prove" AA was at fault is obsurd.

    Second, ETOPS flights like this have all kinds of contingency plans. I don't know if the volcanic ash was known before departure, but just knowing about it isn't a guarantee that your plan will work. Ash my go higher or spread faster than predicted. Or maybe it wasn't predicted. In any case, AA sent the aircraft on the safest route. Had they inadvertently flown into the ash, the aircraft would have been lost and that is far more inconvenient than an extra day or two of travel.

    Finally, the LAX divert was most likely chosen with the hopes that they could find crews for the flight. However, all airlines are short staffed. There is a combination of pilots retiring as they reach 65, pilots that took early retirement buyouts during COVID and general staffing issues in all facets as baby boomers retire.

    But, the take away from this story is that a lot of people will criticize decisions made when they have no earthly idea what they are talking about. This article is also a great example of how those same people act like they are journalists when they are really just writing fiction based on real events.

    1. WorldTravelerA350 Guest

      Ugh, did you not read that a UA IAH-NRT made it just fine. That's further than DFW-NRT so what the hell are you going on about?? You chose to focus on only one of Lucky's examples (UA SFO-NRT) and not the other one that would have made more sense.

      The takeaway from your post - You have no earthly idea what you're talking about!

  13. Bill M Guest

    Volcanic ash has taken out several planes,etching the windshield windows till you can't see out, clogging up the speed, trim and altitude sensors and worst of all destroying the blades inside the engines. But of course being on time is more important in this modern intelligent world with safety on the back burners. Only surfaces in law suits these days.

  14. Foo Guest

    AA is a rolling logistical clusterfluck. Ops nom.

  15. Christopher Guest

    Pilot overreacted! I don't think fuel was the issue cause they fly the route continually. I mean, pilot should have just did a adjustment and continued to destination

  16. Passenger Guest

    I was on that flight. I was told by the crew that the captain's request for
    - additional fuel and
    - to offload any volunteering passengers,
    were denied.

    If there was additional fuel, we would have made it to Narita.

    1. Leigh Gold

      Yeah...right (...not!!).

      FAA regulations set final fuel and payload decision-making with the pilot. Flight dispatchers can question requests for additional fuel, but the pilot has the last say.

      Nice try at fake news...

    2. Passenger Guest

      You need to read FAA rules a little further to see when the captain's decision can be vetoed.

    3. Leigh Gold

      I read them before I replied to you...and consulted with my several family members who are pilots in the industry (my little niece will be a WN pilot shortly...so proud of her; just sharing...it's a family lineage thing).

      Can be vetoed for several reasons, for sure....weight/balance, not loading enough fuel, some other operational issues...but topping up on fuel is not an issue.

      Anyways...I enjoy a pleasant conversation, so I thank you...and definitely open to learning...

      I read them before I replied to you...and consulted with my several family members who are pilots in the industry (my little niece will be a WN pilot shortly...so proud of her; just sharing...it's a family lineage thing).

      Can be vetoed for several reasons, for sure....weight/balance, not loading enough fuel, some other operational issues...but topping up on fuel is not an issue.

      Anyways...I enjoy a pleasant conversation, so I thank you...and definitely open to learning from you, sincerely (!).

    4. Passenger Guest

      So you agree that the pilot does not have the absolute last say?

      I advise you to reread your first reply to my comment and make an assessment to whether that reply showed any intention to have a "pleasant conversation".

    5. Leigh Guest

      I appreciate your reply. Amongst many who aren’t so considerate and knowledgeable, I get the sense that you’re a kind guy.

      Pilot in command has the final say…that’s all I’m saying, and in accordance with FAA regulations.

      Flight Ops departments of all the majors airlines are intricately involved in approving all/any aircraft from flying….but the pilot gets the final say.

      Wish you the best.

    6. Dispatcher Guest

      You are both wrong. The dispatcher and captain must agree on decisions. Any decision by the captain can be legally vetoed by the dispatcher (and only the dispatcher) unless the captain is exercising their emergency authority. This is because decisions by either party will alter/amend the flight release, thus requiring agreement between the two parties. (AC 121-101 (k)(1)(b)) That being said it is standard policy at airlines that whoever, whether the dispatcher or the captain,...

      You are both wrong. The dispatcher and captain must agree on decisions. Any decision by the captain can be legally vetoed by the dispatcher (and only the dispatcher) unless the captain is exercising their emergency authority. This is because decisions by either party will alter/amend the flight release, thus requiring agreement between the two parties. (AC 121-101 (k)(1)(b)) That being said it is standard policy at airlines that whoever, whether the dispatcher or the captain, requests the higher fuel gets their way. In the end, the plane doesn't move until both the dispatcher and the captain agree the flight is SAFE to conduct.

    7. JK Guest

      Actually the dispatcher and Captain have equal responsibility in the dispatching of the flight. Without getting into the nuances of it all, the Captain can not be forced to do something he/she does not want to do, when it gets down to decision like that, the two figure out the best course and must be in agreement, or the flight won’t happen. They had no idea a volcano would erupt, and so when it did,...

      Actually the dispatcher and Captain have equal responsibility in the dispatching of the flight. Without getting into the nuances of it all, the Captain can not be forced to do something he/she does not want to do, when it gets down to decision like that, the two figure out the best course and must be in agreement, or the flight won’t happen. They had no idea a volcano would erupt, and so when it did, the Capt makes the best decision based on the situation at hand and, time permitting, includes dispatch in the decision process. I am a pilot at AA.

    8. Leigh Guest

      @Dispatcher and @JK...thanks for the info. Safe to say, glad that we're in such professional hands as both of yours! All the best, L

    9. flyerco Guest

      Reread, EXTRA fuel. Most airlines don't allow extra fuel unless there's a cost justified or safety reason. Extra fuel means extra weight. This means increased fuel burn and increased costs.

  17. D00gle Guest

    Had a similar 12+ hr trip ATL to Portland. It was slated ATL to NRT but Russian airspace turned us back due insufficien number of working radios. In all.. our ATL to Singapore with a stop in NRT took 36 hrs.... ATL-PDX-SFO-NRT-SIN. Painful for sure.

  18. Michael Lynch Guest

    Decision making in flight is difficult and swift sometimes. Ash could have interfered with all mentioned flights if the weather changed a 2nd or 3rd time as they were in flight. An educated decision would have been based on weather forecast, fuel, crew condition, altitude, right size airports available.....etc.
    It's not the only time air traffic was hit by ash or other weather. During the 1940s < especially WW2 <we lost lots of planes...

    Decision making in flight is difficult and swift sometimes. Ash could have interfered with all mentioned flights if the weather changed a 2nd or 3rd time as they were in flight. An educated decision would have been based on weather forecast, fuel, crew condition, altitude, right size airports available.....etc.
    It's not the only time air traffic was hit by ash or other weather. During the 1940s < especially WW2 <we lost lots of planes and ships in the Pacific for weather. Even into early 50s.
    Then again if the company really didn't fully fuel the plane..... well....... I might slap them silly

    1. Dan Guest

      Jet had plenty fuel for planned flight.
      Can’t fuel every flight to run from volcanic ash.

  19. JohnRossa Member

    Oh my! I was on this exact same flight (AA 61) just 4 weeks ago with an ongoing connection on JL 711 to Singapore. As can be expected, a lot of passengers on AA 61 would have ongoing connections to other parts of Asia so they must be less than pleased with this decision to reroute.

    1. Regis Guest

      I don't think there was a single passenger in that plane pleased with this situation regardless of connections.

  20. TP Guest

    I was scheduled for JL5 (JFK to HND) on Saturday- we heard around 8am on Saturday morning that the flight was to be delayed until Sunday for the volcano. Did get to Tokyo about 24h later than planned - annoying but not as bad as this flight it seems. Not sure why AA seemed to realise so late (although also not sure why several flights including ANA did make it around the same time but JAL couldn’t reroute same day)

  21. Watson Gold

    Whenever AA is involved I always assume penny-pinching is the main decision factor.

    1. Regis Guest

      You assumption is correct.

    2. Leigh Gold

      Your assumption is incorrect (and, no, I don't work for AA).

      So much nonsense is appearing on the comment section of the this blog these days.

      @Ben - your good articles are getting overwhelmed by extremely uninformed and feeble-minded commentators these days...to the point that I worry for you losing legit followers. Consider moderating the comments actively. I know you get a portion of revenue from the white label credit card clicks, etc, but these...

      Your assumption is incorrect (and, no, I don't work for AA).

      So much nonsense is appearing on the comment section of the this blog these days.

      @Ben - your good articles are getting overwhelmed by extremely uninformed and feeble-minded commentators these days...to the point that I worry for you losing legit followers. Consider moderating the comments actively. I know you get a portion of revenue from the white label credit card clicks, etc, but these sort of commentators aren't the type to qualify for those link offers, etc, and will result in a financial degradation of your blog...please give it consideration...for YOU, and those of us that have serious respect for your blog.

    3. Watson Gold

      @Leigh lol your smug delusions of superiority are very amusing.

      AA could have diverted for refueling, but someone in charge decided against it.

    4. Leigh Guest

      @Watson…just read JK’s response above…he’s a pilot

  22. Vincent Guest

    My family is among the 300 passengers. We landed in lax 10:30pm local time. It took us 2hrs to rebook a different and longer route on May 30th. By the time we were done, all hotels nearby were booked. We have 3 little kids in our party.

    1. Steve Diamond

      You could have been in a serious and deadly accident, sorry the LAX hotels were not convenient. Its LA there are no shortages of hotels just find a different one than the one right by the airport.

    2. Leigh Guest

      I’m a bit confused. The flight turned around to LAX with 4 hours to land…and AA had not already reprotected/rerouted passengers by the time that you landed?

      And as it was not weather related, they didn’t also already arrange hotel accommodation? There are thousands of hotel rooms just off the airport on Century Boulevard…that’s so odd that AA didn’t have everything arranged.

      Hope the trip ends okay for you and family!

  23. Eskimo Guest

    Nothing on US mainstream news.
    The eruption must be fake Russian propaganda.

  24. Robert Librizzi Guest

    This is a typical AA problem that WE who fly AA weekly are ALL experiencing.,,,profits over safety and their customers comfort…they always operate their aircraft on razor thin fuel reserves, all to save money. THIS is a shining example.

    1. Leigh Guest

      Irresponsible comments. There is are no facts to support the statement that the aircraft lacked sufficient fuel reserves.

      And I do fly weekly on AA and have not observed or are there facts to support the statement that they are prioritizing profits over safety.

      And though I’m AA EXP and generally enjoy flying with them, usually in the front, I’m no AA apologist…I just flew with them in economy last night LHR-LAX, and the...

      Irresponsible comments. There is are no facts to support the statement that the aircraft lacked sufficient fuel reserves.

      And I do fly weekly on AA and have not observed or are there facts to support the statement that they are prioritizing profits over safety.

      And though I’m AA EXP and generally enjoy flying with them, usually in the front, I’m no AA apologist…I just flew with them in economy last night LHR-LAX, and the service and food was the worst I’ve experienced in years; maybe the worst ever in my 2 decades being an EXP with them. I’m not even usually fussy about food, but last night was the first flight ever that I found the meal atrocious and inedible…

      ….but I’m not going to get hysterical like you and claim that they compromise safety.

  25. Flieger Guest

    Whenever a pilot puts safety over everything else he´s done the right thing.

  26. Razzak Memon Guest

    These people should consider themselves lucky to get the outstanding AA service for 12 hours in addition to what they paid for. Its like BOGO FREE. AA is truly the #1 airline in the world and both me and my wife are CK.

    1. Mark Guest

      The answer is pretty simple as to why the fight turned around. AAL messed up planning that flight and sent it thru the forecast area of Ash and only realized it after the flight departed. They then turned it around and put it down somewhere within the fuel range of the airplane. The United flights were planned to avoid those areas of Ash which is why they took an hour longer. They saw it and...

      The answer is pretty simple as to why the fight turned around. AAL messed up planning that flight and sent it thru the forecast area of Ash and only realized it after the flight departed. They then turned it around and put it down somewhere within the fuel range of the airplane. The United flights were planned to avoid those areas of Ash which is why they took an hour longer. They saw it and avoided it in the planning phase. AAL did not. In short AAL messed up their flight planning. UAL did not.

    2. Anderson Guest

      plot twist...what if the more fuel couldn't be loaded without bumping cargo/pax and the ash forecast changed after departure.

    3. Mark Guest

      Then AAL needs better forecast products. Volcanic Ash cloud movements aren't hard to forecast. Ash clouds don't sneak up on people once the cloud is airborne. The VAAC had the position correctly for the right time period. Any way you do the math it equals to poor planning at AAL.

    4. Regis Guest

      You are being sarcastic right?

  27. Henry LAX Guest

    @lucky : let’s not pretend “JonNYC” as being insightful or observant or even an actual human being - it’s the official mouthpiece for social media in their PR department

    It uses “NYC” instead of “DFW” to make it less obvious it’s something directly coming from HQ, and “observations” like this one u think it made are merely getting out in front of the narrative.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @Henry LAX

      Jon NYC is almighty god. He knows everything.

    2. Hector Salva Guest

      I believed AA did the right thing. Safety first.

    3. Doug Guest

      So what does that make you?
      (Secretly) a Delta propagandist?
      That's a pretty authoritative assertion from (whoever you are).

    4. 305 Guest

      He’s also a nasty prick. Don’t make critical comments on one of his tweets, he’ll threaten you via DM and then block you

  28. Michael Nichols Guest

    I wonder since they flew outside the us border did they have to go through immigration?

    1. Regis Guest

      Yes, because while flying in international airspace additional passengers boarded the aircraft and needed to be cleared by US customs and immigration upon landing in LAX .

    2. John Guest

      Actually passengers did not have to be cleared by US customs. The decision to divert to Los Angeles was made while they were in Alaskan air space; so USCBP treated the aircraft as a domestic arrival.

    3. N1120A Guest

      That is completely wrong. They never entered another country.

  29. Capt. Jim Mallory Ret. Guest

    I believe safety is an issue here. A decision has to be made at or near the point of no return. This was a good decision.

  30. dalo Guest

    Calling it ash will mislead most people. Volcanic ash is fine, extremely abrasive rock powder. It will kill engines in short order. Working in the ashflow from the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption I witnessed first hand the destructive power of volcanic ash. I would not be surprised if a fanjet engine could be killed in a matter of minutes flying through a dense enough cloud of volcanic ash. I would rather land in Los Angeles than in the Pacific.

    1. Daniel Kagan Guest

      dalo would rather land in Los Angeles than the Pacific? That's a close call, but having thought about it, I agree.

    2. Levi Gold

      See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_009 for an example of what volcanic ash can do.

  31. John Guest

    You can't diverse a flight over ocean for safety reason . This is an ETOPS FLIGHT to Tokyo

    1. LAXLonghorn Guest

      Such a dumb comment it made me laugh…thanks!:)

  32. Dr Evil Guest

    Did that volcano have liquid hot magma? I’m looking for a new underground lair.

  33. AlohaDaveKennedy Guest

    The question of the day is did the passengers get credit for all the actual miles flown of did American weasel and just credit them the standard miles for a regular flight from DFW to LAX?

  34. Debo Member

    If it was indeed a fuel issue, I’m surprised they didn’t try to divert to Honolulu for refueling. (Maybe they tried and couldn’t :shrug: )

    1. John Guest

      The only diversion points seriously considered were San Francisco, Anchorage, Seattle, and Los Angeles. For operational reasons the aircraft could not return to Dallas. Unable to re-crew the flight in Los Angeles; and the NRT station requested/pushed for a cancellation of the flight due to Covid protocols in Tokyo. That and the lack of availability for onward connections out of NRT resulted in the diversion to LAX; as the least terrible option.

    2. Jack Fly Guest

      They could definitely recree in LAX as American has screw base and hub there.

    3. DC Guest

      I think you may have a little typo in your comment. "American has SCREW base and hub there."
      I think you meant "American has SCREW base and HUMP there."

      Maybe.

    4. Tom Guest

      HNL is indeed in the Pacific but nowhere close to the flight plan for this flight - it is considerably South. Hence why John suggests ANC or SEA as possible diversion points!

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Flieger Guest

Whenever a pilot puts safety over everything else he´s done the right thing.

4
Dan Guest

Jet had plenty fuel for planned flight. Can’t fuel every flight to run from volcanic ash.

2
Dr Evil Guest

Did that volcano have liquid hot magma? I’m looking for a new underground lair.

2
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