Oops: Seattle-Bound Finnair Flight Returns To Helsinki Twice

Oops: Seattle-Bound Finnair Flight Returns To Helsinki Twice

31

OMAAT reader John was on a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Seattle a few days ago, which was quite eventful. While flight diversions aren’t that rare in the grand scheme of things, double diversions for the same reason are pretty rare.

Finnair A330 flying to Seattle returns to Helsinki

This incident involves the Wednesday, September 14, 2022, flight from Helsinki (HEL) to Seattle (SEA). Specifically, this was Finnair’s flight AY33, operated by a roughly 12-year-old Airbus A330-300 with the registration code OH-LTR.

The flight departed Helsinki at 6:20PM local time, roughly as scheduled. The plane climbed up to 34,000 feet, though a bit over 90 minutes after departure, the decision was made to return to Helsinki. The reason? Well, passengers state that the captain said it was due to pressurization issues, while after the fact Finnair is claiming it had to do with air conditioning issues.

Interestingly reader John noticed that the plane was turning around before the pilot announced it, so was understandably confused (I’m not saying the pilots did anything wrong there — their job is to first aviate, then navigate, and then communicate).

This wasn’t an emergency that required diverting to the nearest airport, but allegedly the pilots decided they didn’t feel comfortable flying the polar route on such a long flight without these systems working properly. The plane eventually descended to 30,000 feet, then to 20,000 feet, and then to 10,000 feet. The plane landed back in Helsinki shortly before 10PM local time, around 3hr40min after taking off.

Finnair flight to Seattle returning to Helsinki

Finnair A330 flying to Seattle returns to Helsinki… again!

The issue with this Finnair A330 was allegedly resolved pretty quickly, and at 11:19PM the flight once again departed for Seattle — talk about a late departure! This time around the plane climbed up to 36,000 feet, and it operated as planned for nearly an hour… until it turned around to Helsinki again.

Reader John noticed this on the map once again, and a bit later the captain announced that the problem had returned. This time around the plane descended to 20,000 feet, and spent around 2hr40min in the air.

The plane landed in Helsinki without incident. In the end, passengers took off on their first flight at 6:20PM, and landed back in Helsinki from their second flight at 1:49AM, so it was a roughly 8.5 hour trip to nowhere.

At that point the flight was just canceled. Reader John ended up being rebooked on Lufthansa via Frankfurt the next day, as presumably Finnair didn’t have enough planes to operate an extra flight yet again, or just didn’t find it to be worthwhile.

Finnair flight to Seattle returning to Helsinki again

Bottom line

A few days ago a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Seattle returned to Helsinki twice over the same issue, resulting in around 8.5 hours of flying to nowhere.

It’s odd, because I feel like in the past, double diversions like this were almost unheard of, while there were at least two last month — the same TUI Boeing 737 returned to Brussels twice in one day over the same technical issue, while an Aer Lingus A330 diverted to Hartford twice (the first time for weather, and the second time due to an engine failure).

Still, the fact that in this case the same passengers on the same flight diverted to the same airport twice for the same reason is pretty remarkable, if you ask me.

What do you make of this Finnair double diversion?

Conversations (31)
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  1. FlyerDon Guest

    The air conditioning and pressurization are the same system. Lots of flight crews, maintenance and dispatchers use the term “pack” when referring to the system. Each engine has its own pack. Most planes can fly on one operable pack but there can be a variety of flight restrictions depending on the type of aircraft and how it is being operated. A flight on a polar routing would probably have a great deal of restrictions. It...

    The air conditioning and pressurization are the same system. Lots of flight crews, maintenance and dispatchers use the term “pack” when referring to the system. Each engine has its own pack. Most planes can fly on one operable pack but there can be a variety of flight restrictions depending on the type of aircraft and how it is being operated. A flight on a polar routing would probably have a great deal of restrictions. It was probably impossible to continue the flight.

  2. Skuaman Guest

    Well the pilot did the right thing Twice
    Safety is number one
    I have flown on this airline and had excellent service
    Airbus computer system informed the pilot of the error
    He responded before there was an emergency issue
    I don't think the passengers even knew there was issue until the announcement
    It is good they have systems that monitor this and alert the pilot early before a serious issue

  3. AGE Guest

    Boarding my fourth AY flight of the week. All refurbished 330s and 350s. All clean. Crew sometimes just incredibly efficient and other times warm and friendly. Food and drink are fine. No, not QR... but, absolutely nothing wrong with their aircraft and service from this perspective. I guess it's just a matter of patience and time.

  4. iamhere Guest

    Perhaps a lack of attention to detail or not really fixing the problem at hand, just making the situation good enough or at least until the next problem.

  5. LA Guest

    So, I was on this flight & can clear a few things up.

    The captain twice told it was "pressurization" that was the issue. The first time I told others in business class that we would almost certainly be changing planes given the implications of that. It was very surprising to stay put, however at that point it was fairly clear they didn't have an alternate plane we could use. There were no temperature problems...

    So, I was on this flight & can clear a few things up.

    The captain twice told it was "pressurization" that was the issue. The first time I told others in business class that we would almost certainly be changing planes given the implications of that. It was very surprising to stay put, however at that point it was fairly clear they didn't have an alternate plane we could use. There were no temperature problems in my part of the cabin, so who knows, but it must've been a concern that jeopardized the safety of the aircraft as the financial hit AY takes from this will be huge. There were a lot of very concerning/unusual noises on the 2nd descent tho my guess is they were testing all their systems. Hats off to the captain, it couldn't have been easy to justify the decision to go back the 2nd time. I prefer my life & a day-long delay than to roll the dice.

    I informed as many people as possible about their rights in accordance with EU261 once we deplaned. Think about 100/150-60 pax heard me. Many had no idea they were eligible for €600 & free rebooking to their final destinations. There's *only one* right to compensation in this instance as it is based on your time of arrival at the destination.

    The crew, at least with me, were great - Konsta, in particular.

    The ground response on the other hand was a debacle. 2 hours to queue for a hotel until nearly 4am with no senior manager/supervisor explaining to customers their rights or how long things could be.

    I rebooked to a different US city & arrived late the following day (another 3 flights later), after AY33's cancelation caused me to miss a flight from Seattle. It was a gruelling experience, but I'm an AY Gold (soon to be Plat, & Lumo by next year) & will be certainly be using the airline again. Finnair's safety record speaks for itself. The cabin crews both that day & the day after on my rebooked transatlantic flight took great care of me after going so long without any real sleep. I will, however, be avoiding their old cabins as this particular A330 was rather worse for wear.

    Hope everyone else made it to their destinations safe & €600 better off.

    1. Barbara Guest

      Well, I booked my flight from Chicago to Helsinki well in advance, very carefully selecting a plane with refurbished business class. And guess what, just found out (24 hours prior to boarding) that I will be flying this particular plane with old cabin. Needless to say how I feel about it.

  6. LarryInNYC Diamond

    For those of us on loyalty point runs: if this happens to us can we claim the actual distance flown as the base miles for LP earning?

  7. Esse Mann Guest

    Maintenance is only the first step downstairs...

  8. Micah Guest

    Talk about a real flight to "HEL(L)"

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Interestingly enough, per FR24, OH-LTR made a 3rd trip back to HEL today. Although this seems like a test flight after repairs.

    2. Shanjaya Guest

      To Hel(l) and back!

  9. T- Guest

    My gosh. The world isn't over. An airplane is a machine & machines have problems. Stuff happens, no need to NEVER fly Finnair again. Your completely overreacting.

    1. Daniel Guest

      Easy for you to say. I dropped thousand's for four business class tickets. Service was bad, food was bad, airplane condition was bad. I can chose how to spend my money and I will continue to invest in airlines like QR, EK, DL and others where I have had better service and more kept up planes.

    2. Barbara Guest

      Same here. Booked a business class ticket from Chicago to Helsinki making sure the plane will have refurbished new business class seats just to found out that tomorrow I will be flying this particular plane with old business cabin. Disgraceful.

  10. Felix Guest

    BTW Aviation Herald reports only about a problem with AC not the pressure cabin.

    https://avherald.com/h?article=4fe57ff0&opt=0

  11. Daniel Guest

    I flew this route and the EXACT plane a few months ago. The plane was in a decrepit state on the interior. Broken seats, messy tray tables, interior walls peeling away. I was shocked. I also paid full fare business and complained and have not heard anything in response. Sadly I will never fly Finnair again.

    1. Jordan Gold

      Unfortunately, these airlines do not need you and I. They will fill the seat regardless. They want to grab $$$ and most people are not returning customers anyway. You could always complain to your CC company, and say you want a partial refund for them not living up to (show a commercial to emphasis what they are advertising and show pics as proof of what you received).

      If more people did this, carriers would start to take notice.

  12. Someone from Finland Guest

    Correction, the issue was with air conditioning, not pressurizarion according to Finnair. The issues weren’t safety critical, but it is a long flight to spend without airconditioning, so they turned back and tried to fix it, then turned back again and canceled the flight.

    1. John Guest

      Captain told us it was a pressurization issue……twice.

    2. John Guest

      Interesting, the Captain told us it was a pressurization issue……twice.

  13. Felix Guest

    @Sean M.
    Why would they receive double-compensation? Was the Lufthansa flight delayed by more than 4 hours as well? I mean, when Finnair rebooks me on Lufthansa than I have a new contract of carriage with Lufthansa and they are liable for any further delays based on the rebooked flight schedule.

    I am really grateful for my friends that this did not happen a week earlier. Hope that it won‘t happen anytime soon, but...

    @Sean M.
    Why would they receive double-compensation? Was the Lufthansa flight delayed by more than 4 hours as well? I mean, when Finnair rebooks me on Lufthansa than I have a new contract of carriage with Lufthansa and they are liable for any further delays based on the rebooked flight schedule.

    I am really grateful for my friends that this did not happen a week earlier. Hope that it won‘t happen anytime soon, but at least my upcoming AY33 flight is planned with a heavy configuration so it hopefully won‘t be that plane.

    It‘s not that the plane is not safe but diverting twice means that the malfunction is not under control

    1. Eskimo Guest

      @Sean M
      @Felix

      This actually got me thinking.
      What would actually make this double-compensation.

      As far as I can see, EU is using the term "flight". So if the flight number changes, one could conclude it's a different flight?
      So if AY33 diverted back and you are rebooked into AY9033 and the latter got back too, that would count as double compensation even if AY33 and AY9033 is the exact same plane?

      ...

      @Sean M
      @Felix

      This actually got me thinking.
      What would actually make this double-compensation.

      As far as I can see, EU is using the term "flight". So if the flight number changes, one could conclude it's a different flight?
      So if AY33 diverted back and you are rebooked into AY9033 and the latter got back too, that would count as double compensation even if AY33 and AY9033 is the exact same plane?

      For the LH part, I don't think you have a new contract of carriage with LH. I would think it's more AY has a contract with LH. You don't really have any contract with LH, I feel it's more like AY fulfills it's contract with you. How on the backend is not your concern.
      However, if LH flights was delayed too, that should also be a separate compensation. Not because of COC but because it's a different flight.

      What are everone's thoughts?

    2. Maxi Guest

      EU compensation is definitely not on a „per flight“ basis. My guess would be it’s per COC. Arrival time at you final destination matters.
      Also true if you book intentionally long layovers and they are cut short/omitted - no compensation in that case.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      @Maxi

      If you actually read through EC261/2004 you will see.
      1. Per EC261/2004, definitely used the term "flight" and never mentioned anything about COC.
      1.1 However they never really define "flight"
      2. There is a difference between delay and cancellation and each is worded differently.
      3. Delay concerns 'scheduled time of departure', whereas cancellation concerns 'final destination' and 'scheduled time of arrival'.

      "Also true if you book intentionally long layovers and...

      @Maxi

      If you actually read through EC261/2004 you will see.
      1. Per EC261/2004, definitely used the term "flight" and never mentioned anything about COC.
      1.1 However they never really define "flight"
      2. There is a difference between delay and cancellation and each is worded differently.
      3. Delay concerns 'scheduled time of departure', whereas cancellation concerns 'final destination' and 'scheduled time of arrival'.

      "Also true if you book intentionally long layovers and they are cut short/omitted - no compensation in that case."
      That seems to be the general understanding, however I have never seen anyone pushing the airline far enough for a definite ruling. Again this falls into how you look at the wording.
      But of course, airlines will always deny any compensation. So you'll hardly ever see any success story for this.

      I am fortunate enough to only have a definite compensation. I am unfortunate to not have often EU compensations, including the vague ones.

  14. Ghostrider5408 Guest

    One can only hope this isn't the beginning of a spade mechanical issues at Finnair. These planes getting little long in the tooth.

  15. Sean M. Diamond

    Double EU261 compensation!!! Ka-ching.

    1. RF Diamond

      Lol, that would make things better for the pax.

    2. Cedroc Guest

      Probably doesn’t apply since it’s a technical problem of the control of the airline. Obviously they have to rebook and pay any meals / hotel costs.

    3. Quinten Guest

      EU261/2004 does apply to all flights leaving from EU. And technical problems are not unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances. So, passengers on this flight are entitled for monetary compensation AND meals, drinks, hotel, etc.

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Daniel Guest

Easy for you to say. I dropped thousand's for four business class tickets. Service was bad, food was bad, airplane condition was bad. I can chose how to spend my money and I will continue to invest in airlines like QR, EK, DL and others where I have had better service and more kept up planes.

4
LarryInNYC Diamond

For those of us on loyalty point runs: if this happens to us can we claim the actual distance flown as the base miles for LP earning?

2
Quinten Guest

EU261/2004 does apply to all flights leaving from EU. And technical problems are not unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances. So, passengers on this flight are entitled for monetary compensation AND meals, drinks, hotel, etc.

2
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