Brussels Airlines’ Very Long Flight To Luanda

Brussels Airlines’ Very Long Flight To Luanda

22

Brussels Airlines passengers headed to Angola on Sunday had a very long journey, as reported by Aviation24.

Brussels Airlines triangle flight diverts

Brussels Airlines has a large presence in Africa, and the airline operates several triangle flights. For example, here’s a flight the airline operates to both Luanda, Angola, and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, using an Airbus A330:

SN359 Brussels to Luanda departing 10:25AM arriving 6:00PM
SN359 Luanda to Kinshasa departing 7:00PM arriving 8:15PM
SN359 Kinshasa to Brussels departing 9:45PM arriving 6:50AM (+1 day)

Brussels Airlines’ triangle flight

The logic is that there may not be enough demand to operate a flight to just one destination frequently, but the economics work out much more favorably when there are two destinations involved. That brings us to what happened to this flight on Sunday, October 17, 2021.

SN359 departed from Brussels as scheduled, and everything was normal until the flight approached Luanda. While the plane was on approach, the airspace was allegedly closed without any sort of advance notice, due to the arrival of Turkish President Erdoğan.

Since the airspace was closed, the plane flew in the direction of Kinshasa, where it circled, in hopes of being able to land back in Luanda. But the airspace didn’t reopen, and with fuel starting to run low, the pilots made the decision to just land in Kinshasa, the next stop on this triangle flight.

Brussels Airlines skipped Luanda on this flight

Passengers then had to fly back to Brussels

The passengers with the destination of Kinshasa were of course good to go at this point, since they landed at their intended airport. It was a different story for those who were supposed to fly to Luanda:

  • International travel restrictions are complicated nowadays, making flight diversions to different countries even more complicated
  • Even though it’s only around 340 miles between Kinshasa and Luanda, there are no regularly scheduled flights that passengers could have been accommodated on

At this point the airline decided to fly Luanda-bound passengers back to Brussels. It’s not entirely clear if that’s because the airspace in Angola continued to remain closed, or if it was just decided that this was easier logistically (and there are lots of considerations there, from missed connections, to crews timing out, to securing landing rights).

Presumably finding space for these passengers wasn’t an issue, since the airline was supposed to pick up a new passengers in Luanda, but that didn’t happen since the plane never landed there.

So the passengers flew all the way back to Brussels. Then on the morning of Monday, October 18, 2021, they took a flight from Brussels to Luanda. Passengers ended up taking SN1357 from Brussels to Luanda, arriving at around 7:30PM. This meant that they landed around 25.5 hours after the scheduled arrival time.

This was a long day for Brussels Airlines passengers!

What Brussels Airlines has to say

Here’s how a Brussels Airlines spokesperson describes this situation:

“Following the closure of Luanda airspace, passengers on flight SN359 on 17 October were unfortunately forced to return to Brussels. Due to the closure of Luanda airport, our flight remained in a holding pattern for about half an hour. The captain then decided to head for Kinshasa, the second destination of this triangular flight, for fuel reasons

Our Operations Centre then looked at various options, such as dropping off passengers in Kinshasa, but there are no Kinshasa-Luanda flights. Unfortunately, the only option was to return to Brussels with these passengers.

We are sorry for the great inconvenience this has caused our passengers. Immediately after the decision to return home, we began to re-accommodate passengers on a flight the next day (yesterday). They arrived in Luanda last night.”

Bottom line

What a challenging and frustrating situation for all involved. A Brussels Airlines triangle flight to Luanda and Kinshasa had to divert last minute, after Angola’s airspace was closed temporarily. The plane continued to its next destination. At that point there wasn’t a practical way to route through Luanda again (for whatever reason).

The decision was made to fly everyone back to Brussels, and then fly them back to Luanda the following day, meaning they arrived around 25.5 hours late.

What do you make of this Brussels Airlines operational mess?

Conversations (22)
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  1. Jerry Guest

    Catumbela and Lubango in Angola both have international airports. It would be much easier and cheaper for the airline to land there and then arrange transfer of the passengers to Luanda

  2. Peter Kayser Guest

    Why not fly to Lusaka and wait till Luanda reopens. Much more comfortable and cheaper for SN.

  3. Fred Guest

    Stupid decision to fly back to Brussels. Wait at least 1 hour and off load in Luanda. Closing airspace for vip takes couple of hours . it happened to me in Kinshasa twice!!

  4. Claudio Guest

    There are no roads between those two cities. Even if has it, i would not took that bus. It wold be suicide. I rather fly back to brussels. You have to be crazy to take buses in most of the Africans countries. And i am Angolan...

  5. Yoshida Aigazaki Puna Guest

    Since i am Angolan, i understand how frustate is nota Boeing able to land with to airport closure due to VIP, i havê been couple off times in this situation while arriving at Luanda Airport. There, i AM nota airport specialist land i do nota know how to rules works for these companies, but i think if they drove passenger from kinsasha to Cabinda, problaby they could negotiate with TAAG angola airline to take passenger...

    Since i am Angolan, i understand how frustate is nota Boeing able to land with to airport closure due to VIP, i havê been couple off times in this situation while arriving at Luanda Airport. There, i AM nota airport specialist land i do nota know how to rules works for these companies, but i think if they drove passenger from kinsasha to Cabinda, problaby they could negotiate with TAAG angola airline to take passenger from Cabinda to Luanda which 45 Lins flight, instead off going all the way Jack to Brussels. ' just thoughts'

  6. travel4b Guest

    Not impressed. I flew through Dallas on AA in August.

  7. stogieguy7 Gold

    Various COVID protocols (which can be unnecessarily convoluted) are in place and they change at a moment's notice. This makes it even harder to land and dump pax off in an alternate country. This would have been complicated even before the 'vid. Also, whatever you may think of Luanda, it is far more developed and able to accommodate visitors than the mess that is the DRC. Sadly, SN had no other option.

  8. Icarus Guest

    Airspace was closed for the arrival of the Turkish President. Absolute idiocy. They know the commercial flights operating, and it wasn’t a surprise.

  9. JS Guest

    I assume that the crew change was planned for Kinshasa anyway, not Luanda, otherwise the flight couldn't have continued back to Brussels normally with the same crew. I don't see how this is a staffing issue since the replacement crew could have probably flown back the same route (via Luanda) in the opposite direction without timing out.

    So perhaps the aircraft was needed back in Brussels on time for its next planned flight? But the...

    I assume that the crew change was planned for Kinshasa anyway, not Luanda, otherwise the flight couldn't have continued back to Brussels normally with the same crew. I don't see how this is a staffing issue since the replacement crew could have probably flown back the same route (via Luanda) in the opposite direction without timing out.

    So perhaps the aircraft was needed back in Brussels on time for its next planned flight? But the plane did in fact not depart on its next flight (to Accra) until a day later, so it would have had plenty of time to take a detour of approx 2-3 hours added flight time.

    I'm guessing that the airline just did the math.

    Remember this is an EU based airline flying to/from an EU destination, so they are obliged to pay out EC261 compensation. After a minimum delay of 3 hours it's 300 € per pax. After 4 hours it's 600 €. (doesn't matter if it's 4 hours of 24 hours, the compensation amount is the same after that time limit). Passengers bound for Luanda were gonna be over 4 hours late anyway, even if the airline had decided to fly back to Brussels via Luanda. And so were the new passengers that they'd picked up from Luanda. But with that detour,the new passengers heading from Kinshasa to Brussels would now have been over 4 hours late too. Instead, with the direct flight that they took, the last leg arrived only 2 hours late in Brussels (=no grounds for compensation).

    Note that the airline didn't even have to pay anyone for hotel accommodation in Brussels since they just sent the poor b*stards right back to Luanda on the next flight.

    So yeah, I hope they enjoyed their 600 euros...

    1. Daniel from Finland Guest

      There will be no 600 EUR compensation as this was an exceptional circumstance outside the control of the airline.

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      Whether the circumstance was within the airline's control or not is irrelevant as far as EU261/2004 is concerned. The only test for a valid exception is "extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken".

      Who must action the reasonable measure is not defined, so it may be demonstrated that any third party may also have such capacity. This particular circumstance could possibly have been avoided if...

      Whether the circumstance was within the airline's control or not is irrelevant as far as EU261/2004 is concerned. The only test for a valid exception is "extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken".

      Who must action the reasonable measure is not defined, so it may be demonstrated that any third party may also have such capacity. This particular circumstance could possibly have been avoided if the Government of Angola had taken reasonable measures to avoid closing their airspace. Therefore, it can be argued that the liability still exists towards the passenger on the part of Brussels Airlines. In turn, Brussels Airlines may choose to seek to recover such damages from the Government of Angola or indeed the Government of Turkey if they should so desire, and if the relevant courts accept to process such actions.

      I have personal experience attempting to defend a claim (in Germany) under a very similar circumstance (African country airspace closed due to VIP movement, resulting in flight diversion/delay). The advice from the LBA there was similar to the summary provided above. However the final claim was dismissed on the basis that a non-EU carrier is not liable for delays at originating points outside the EU, and not on the basis that airspace closure by Government authorities is an "extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken". An EU carrier may indeed have been held liable in the same circumstance.

    3. Pierre Guest

      And you would know that, Daniel. Finnair with the complicity of Finnish authorities is THE ABSOLUTE CHAMPION at denying due EC 261 compensation.

      I am one of the (very) few people who beat them at at it, quite a proud achievement.

  10. Ben Guest

    Do they get Miles for all 3 flights?

  11. Luke Guest

    Wonder if they could just charter a bus from Kinshasa, not sure how the roads and conditions are in that part of the world!

    1. S_LEE New Member

      Kinshasa is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Luanda is in Angola. There may be travel restrictions between those two countries which makes it difficult to carry the passengers by land.

    2. Richard Guest

      If you asked any sane person whether they want to travel from Kinshasa to Luanda by bus or a round the world plane trip, the answer is almost always going to be the flight. That 400 miles by crow takes about 12 hours not including the border check through jungle and an escarpment and a foggy coastline.

    3. Icarus Guest

      No proper roads,..jungle

  12. Sean M. Guest

    It's impossible to really critique this decision without having visibility of all the variables in play regarding airspace, crew, pax connections on the other end, etc.. which we obviously don't have. Not the first time something like this has happened, and won't be the last either.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Couldn't the SN crew just hold West of Luanda until other diversions are out and enough to only land in Luanda then declare Mayday?

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      I can only assume you are trolling here, because if that is a serious question I really don't know how to respond.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      I am dead serious.

      What would prevent SN not to wait a bit longer hoping the airspace opens soon or until LAD is the only viable landing site. I doubt they will scramble MiGs to shoot them down or let it run out of fuel in the ocean.

      If anything the airline would just piss off Angola and maybe Turkey, a equal return favor for stupid decisions.

  13. Nelson Guest

    The stupidity of that Turkish morron and the lack of Angolan efficiency.

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Pierre Guest

And you would know that, Daniel. Finnair with the complicity of Finnish authorities is THE ABSOLUTE CHAMPION at denying due EC 261 compensation. I am one of the (very) few people who beat them at at it, quite a proud achievement.

1
Claudio Guest

There are no roads between those two cities. Even if has it, i would not took that bus. It wold be suicide. I rather fly back to brussels. You have to be crazy to take buses in most of the Africans countries. And i am Angolan...

1
Eskimo Guest

Couldn't the SN crew just hold West of Luanda until other diversions are out and enough to only land in Luanda then declare Mayday?

1
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