Ouch: British Airways’ Very Long Flight To Hong Kong

Ouch: British Airways’ Very Long Flight To Hong Kong

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Passengers on Friday’s British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong sure had an adventure…

British Airways flight to Hong Kong diverts to Manila

British Airways operates a daily flight from London (LHR) to Hong Kong (HKG) using a Boeing 777, with the flight number BA31. The flight on Friday, October 8, 2021, started off as any other. The flight is blocked at 12 hours, and was scheduled to depart London at 6:40PM on Friday, and arrive in Hong Kong at 1:40PM on Saturday.

The flight departed just fine, and about 11 hours after departure it was on approach to Hong Kong. Unfortunately Hong Kong was dealing with a tropical storm on Saturday. The British Airways 777 tried to land in Hong Kong, but due to the weather situation, the pilots had to perform a go around. The pilots attempted to land a second time, but another go around was needed. Uh oh.

At this point the pilots made the decision to divert, given that the weather wasn’t improving. Planes consistently carry extra fuel for these kinds of situations, to both account for go arounds and diversions.

In this case the decision was made to divert over 700 miles away, to Manila, where the weather was significantly better. The flight continued, and sure enough it landed in Manila a full 13hr19min after departing London, at around 4PM local time.

British Airways’ long flight to Manila

Passengers stuck on British Airways plane overnight

With all passengers safely on the ground, it was time to decide what to do next. The weather was still bad in Hong Kong, so the flight couldn’t continue just yet. Then there’s of course the whole issue of border restrictions due to coronavirus — due to restrictions, most passengers on the plane weren’t eligible to enter the Philippines, so it’s not like British Airways could even let everyone off the plane and put them in a hotel for the night.

Instead everyone — including passengers and crew — spent the night on the plane. As mentioned above, the plane arrived in Manila at 4PM, and could finally leave for Hong Kong the following morning at 10AM, so the plane was on the ground for 18 hours.

At 10AM the following morning, the plane finally started its flight to Hong Kong. The flight took around 1hr56min, and even that flight had a bit of excitement — the flight had one aborted landing this time around (in addition to the two the previous day).

British Airways’ Manila to Hong Kong flight

The flight finally landed in Hong Kong at around 12PM, around 22 hours behind schedule. When the plane finally landed in Hong Kong, the cabin broke out in applause.

In the end, passengers were onboard the plane for 33 hours after departing London, and that’s not accounting for the time people spent at the airport in London prior to the flight. Passengers had positive things to say about the crew, so kudos to them for how they handled this very difficult situation.

I can’t imagine how tough this must have been for those in economy, between having to sit up and wear a mask for all of that time. Meanwhile for those in first and business class, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad.

British Airways’ 777 first class

Bottom line

Friday’s British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong sure was a long one. While the flight usually takes around 12 hours, in this case passengers were on the plane for around 33 hours.

There was a tropical storm in Hong Kong, so after two missed approaches, the decision was made to divert to Manila. With the weather in Hong Kong having not improved, passengers had to spend the night on the plane in the Philippines. The next morning the plane finally continued to Hong Kong, where passengers eventually landed after yet another missed approach.

What an adventure — kudos to the crew for keeping everyone safe.

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  1. cilzy

    Hi. i can imagine how frustrating it was for all the passenger, but safety must comes first, and Im glad everything were safe.

    So travelers from the UK are allowed to enter Hongkong for transit? my friend is going home on November to Manila and He's going with BA to Hongkong and changed plane to Manila. I hope someone can answer my query please

    Thank you

  2. Thalha Thaika

    You haven't mentioned the chaos that came after with the bureaucracy and the 21 day hotel qurantine being a day earlier many people were left stranded and unable to exit the airport since their arrival date and the hotel booking were different...

  3. jallan

    A story in the South China Morning Post says there were about 100 passengers, and the crew rested in shifts during the delay so they could operate the continuation. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3151857/tropical-storm-turns-london-hong-kong-flight-british-airways

  4. Aaron

    Curious - in addition to carrying extra fuel, was there also additional food and beverage on board? Or did the MNL grounds crew have to resupply them?

  5. Sarah Fairhurst

    I think you missed the most vital part of this story from the passengers perspective. Because they arrived a day late into HK they were all required to reschedule their quarantine hotels (often impossible) and there are (as yet unverified rumours) that any poor sods unable to reschedule were sent to Penny Bay for 21 days, the quarantine concentration camp instead of their expensive hotel rooms. Quite an impact for them on top of the...

    I think you missed the most vital part of this story from the passengers perspective. Because they arrived a day late into HK they were all required to reschedule their quarantine hotels (often impossible) and there are (as yet unverified rumours) that any poor sods unable to reschedule were sent to Penny Bay for 21 days, the quarantine concentration camp instead of their expensive hotel rooms. Quite an impact for them on top of the awful experience on the journey. Zero compassion or common sense by HK authorities.

  6. Tony Ercolani

    They should have been able to disembark with appropriate safety precautions in a situation like this.

  7. Eric

    Why does everyone care about the flight attendants and crew and not the passengers.

    Holy molly you guys are out of touch

    1. Leigh

      Where in the comments do you read that?

    2. Leigh

      Perhaps you misunderstood the comments about crew “timing out”?

      If the crew “times out”, the passengers are stuck and go nowhere….so it’s actually a question that relates to what happens to the passengers, and their well-being.

    3. Eric

      Timing out is the lowest concern. 33 hours in economy is a crime.

    4. John Phelan

      So what would you have done? Most people onboard weren't eligible to enter the Philippines due to Covid restrictions.

    5. Leigh

      Oh, Eric.

      You don’t get it.

    6. Eric

      Leigh you don't get it!!!!!!

      The class action lawyers are already salivating. I've heard about 12 different things they could have done including flying the Hong Kong pilots the Manila and then back tent tent City let's just say timing out was a big big big mistake timing out his meaningless they could have had the plane go somewhere else anywhere else put the plane in a hanger.

      They could have flew with more pilots...

      Leigh you don't get it!!!!!!

      The class action lawyers are already salivating. I've heard about 12 different things they could have done including flying the Hong Kong pilots the Manila and then back tent tent City let's just say timing out was a big big big mistake timing out his meaningless they could have had the plane go somewhere else anywhere else put the plane in a hanger.

      They could have flew with more pilots and most importantly they should have never taken off. The class action lawyers are salivating. Anyone who get had the gate check a bag is probably looking at $3 million. Everyone else probably looking about 1 million each. Of course US citizens are 30% above.

    7. jallan

      What's the basis for your belief that they'll get between $1 and $3 million?

  8. Duane

    How full was economy? There's a big difference between a full cabin where people had to sit upright the whole time, and fairly empty where they could lie down across multiple seats.

  9. Derek

    Too bad they did not divert to Taipei/Taoyuan or Kaohsiung, both airports in the Republic of China, not to be confused with the People's Republic of China.

    1. Eric

      Please remove this as a political comment with no reason and no basis this is a pure outwardly attack trying to bring politics into this this is absolutely meaningless and adds nothing to the conversation please delete

    2. Mark B

      Not the least bit realistic, as quarantine requirements are even more stringent in Taiwan.

  10. Douglas DeNunzio

    The flight from London Heathrow to Hong Kong is 8.5 hours of smooth flight with no turbulence in most of the Atlantic pathways!

    1. Gee Whiz

      Heathrow to Hong Kong doesn’t fly over the Atlantic, and it is blocked as a 13 hour flight.

    2. John Phelan

      Atlantic??? The flight flies across Europe and Asia to get to Hong Kong and takes 12 hours.

    3. Never In Doubt

      John, congratulations, you’ve been DeNunzio’d*!

      *I honestly can’t tell if the man is trolling, or just off his meds.

  11. ZZ

    How did the pilots and cabin crew not time out? They obviously “rested” in MNL while on the plane but to me that doesn’t seem like it would count as the legal rest requirements that crews have.

    1. Leogh

      Wondered about that as well.

      They would have had 2 sets of cockpit crew from London, but that still doesn’t answer the Q about what qualifies as crew rest. Same for the FA’s.

    2. Jake

      According to the CAA:

      [https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP371.PDF]

      17.1 "The aircraft operator must notify all crew members in good time of a flying duty period so that sufficient and uninterrupted pre-flight rest can be obtained. When away from base the operator must provide the crew with the opportunity and the facilities for adequate pre-flight rest. The operator must provide suitable accommodation. When flights are carried out at such short notice that it is impracticable for an operator to...

      According to the CAA:

      [https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP371.PDF]

      17.1 "The aircraft operator must notify all crew members in good time of a flying duty period so that sufficient and uninterrupted pre-flight rest can be obtained. When away from base the operator must provide the crew with the opportunity and the facilities for adequate pre-flight rest. The operator must provide suitable accommodation. When flights are carried out at such short notice that it is impracticable for an operator to arrange suitable accommodation, then this responsibility devolves to the aircraft commander."

      18.1 "An aircraft commander may, at his discretion, and after taking note of the circumstances of other members of the crew, extend an FDP [Flight Duty Period] beyond that permitted in paragraph 13, Tables A, B, C, or paragraph 23, Table D, provided he is satisfied that the flight can be made safely."

      From what I gather, as long as the crew are happy and confident in the situation then the rules can be bent. I think they came to the conclusion that messing about with visas and tests just to have a hotel room (which they wouldn't have had for long after time spent with formalities) wasn't worth it. Also, I'm not sure what the current situation is with Hong Kong route, but earlier in the year, I believe they had two sets of flight crew (due to covid); one would sit it first class while the others fly the outbound leg, and then they'd switch on the return leg. So it is possible that the pilots would have had a first class seat to rest in (which seems sufficient). Regarding rest requirements, I don't think the CAA has an exact definition of rest/accommodation with requirements (other than 'sufficient'), the unions however...

    3. Leigh

      They actually require 2 cockpit crews to fly the segment from LHR-HKG due to the flight time.

      The crews are then refreshed in HKG for the return.

      But great info provided. Thanks!

  12. Leigh

    Wonder - were they able to get fresh provisions at MNL to feed the pax’s/crew during the 18 delay? Hard to imagine they would have had the catering onboard for such a delay.

    And, indeed, good job by the crew.

  13. Francisco C

    How many passengers were on the flight? This would’ve been near torture with a full economy class cabin.

  14. Weymar Osborne

    If airports have an airside transit hotel facility, would airlines be able to put up passengers there? I'm pretty sure Taipei has one (though who knows if it would be open these days) and the airport is actually closer to Hong Kong than Manila is. If that could be allowed, it might start to have a major influence on where airlines decide to divert.

    1. MKLDH

      A British Airways 77W has almost 300 seats onboard, and even with a very light load the number of passengers plus cabin crew could easily surpass 100. Given how small airside transit hotels tend to be, I doubt any of them could accommodate these many guests without reservations.

    2. David

      Taipei is not open for transit atm, so even an airside hotel would not make it available.

  15. Greg

    Terrible circumstances - what was the load

    The BA met office will be getting an earful from the head pilot and flight attendant of BA

  16. John

    From one report:
    "...Dept of Health not counting the delay as the start if quarantine..." No words....

    1. DCYukon

      No surprise. They should never have taken off from LHR if there was any indication the storm was headed to HKG. After all, Chek Lap Kok can have bad crosswinds at the best of times and had a terrible China Airlines flip over crash in 1999 during a typhoon landing shortly after the airport opened. Surely, weather reports 12 hours before scheduled landing should have raised some questions.

  17. JohnJohn

    You have a typo in your first sentence. The flight is BA 31. Not 131

Featured Comments Load all 37 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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John Phelan

Atlantic??? The flight flies across Europe and Asia to get to Hong Kong and takes 12 hours.

Jake

According to the CAA: [https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP371.PDF] 17.1 "The aircraft operator must notify all crew members in good time of a flying duty period so that sufficient and uninterrupted pre-flight rest can be obtained. When away from base the operator must provide the crew with the opportunity and the facilities for adequate pre-flight rest. The operator must provide suitable accommodation. When flights are carried out at such short notice that it is impracticable for an operator to arrange suitable accommodation, then this responsibility devolves to the aircraft commander." 18.1 "An aircraft commander may, at his discretion, and after taking note of the circumstances of other members of the crew, extend an FDP [Flight Duty Period] beyond that permitted in paragraph 13, Tables A, B, C, or paragraph 23, Table D, provided he is satisfied that the flight can be made safely." From what I gather, as long as the crew are happy and confident in the situation then the rules can be bent. I think they came to the conclusion that messing about with visas and tests just to have a hotel room (which they wouldn't have had for long after time spent with formalities) wasn't worth it. Also, I'm not sure what the current situation is with Hong Kong route, but earlier in the year, I believe they had two sets of flight crew (due to covid); one would sit it first class while the others fly the outbound leg, and then they'd switch on the return leg. So it is possible that the pilots would have had a first class seat to rest in (which seems sufficient). Regarding rest requirements, I don't think the CAA has an exact definition of rest/accommodation with requirements (other than 'sufficient'), the unions however...

Derek

Too bad they did not divert to Taipei/Taoyuan or Kaohsiung, both airports in the Republic of China, not to be confused with the People's Republic of China.

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