Qantas A380 Stranded In Baku, Azerbaijan

Qantas A380 Stranded In Baku, Azerbaijan

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You wouldn’t expect to see two Qantas Airbus A380s on the ground in Azerbaijan, but that’s exactly what will happen shortly…

London-bound Qantas A380 diverts to Baku

356 Qantas passengers and crew are currently stranded in Baku, Azerbaijan, and may be missing Christmas in the United Kingdom.

This incident involves QF1, Qantas’ flagship flight from Sydney (SYD) to Singapore (SIN) to London (LHR). Specifically, on December 22, 2022, the Singapore to London portion of the flight was scheduled to be operated by a roughly 13 year old Airbus A380 with the registration code VH-OQH.

The flight was scheduled to depart at 11:55PM, but ended up leaving around one hour behind schedule. The flight climbed up to 34,000 feet and initially operated as scheduled. The plane flew over Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and then Georgia.

Toward the latter part of the flight, pilots saw smoke warnings for the cargo hold going off in the cockpit. While there was no indication of an actual fire, safety is of course always the top priority, so the decision was made to divert out of an abundance of caution. Specifically, pilots and Qantas’ operations team made the decision to divert to Baku, Azerbaijan (GYD).

This decision was made once the plane had already passed Baku, so the plane made a 180 degree turn to land there. It ended up touching down in the capital of Azerbaijan just under 10 hours after departing Singapore, shortly after 7AM local time.

Flight path for diverted Qantas flight
Flight path for diverted Qantas flight

At this point you had 350+ people in Baku, a destination not ordinarily served by Qantas, with a plane that had to be grounded for some amount of time. So, what happened next?

Qantas A380 makes rescue flight from Sydney to Baku

So, what did Qantas do next? The airline is sending a roughly 14 year old Airbus A380 with the registration code VH-OQD to rescue stranded passengers. The plane took off from Sydney at around 11:40AM local time on December 24, and will be flying the ~8,200 mile journey nonstop to Azerbaijan.

As of the time this post is published, the plane is just entering Indian airspace. It has flown for nearly 11 hours, and has roughly four hours remaining to Baku. The plane is expected to land in Baku at around 7:40PM, just over 36 hours after passengers first arrived in Baku.

Flight path for Qantas rescue flight

Qantas claims that passengers will end up making it to London on the morning of December 25. I suppose it’s probably too tight to “turn” the plane in Baku and still fly it to London before Heathrow’s curfew kicks in. I would imagine it will be the crew from the original flight that diverted that will be operating this flight, given that they’ve now had sufficient rest.

It took Qantas quite some time to send a rescue flight, though permission was required from several different governments, which is why it allegedly took so long. Qantas is also sending engineers to Baku to hopefully figure out what went wrong with this flight, and get the A380 back into service.

Interestingly the rescue A380 flying to Baku is a spare aircraft that Qantas has for exactly situations like this. It’s impressive that Qantas has a spare, despite how small the carrier’s A380 fleet is. The other passengers impacted by this diversion would be those who were scheduled to travel on the return flight from London to Singapore to Sydney.

This diversion can’t have been cheap for Qantas, between the cost of taking care of passengers during the layover, not to mention the cost of flying an A380 empty for 15 hours to rescue these passengers.

Bottom line

Some passengers on Qantas’ flagship route were in for quite an adventure this week. Qantas’ Singapore to London flight had to divert to Baku due to a fire warning going off in the cargo hold. The airline is now sending a rescue aircraft, and passengers should make it to London on Christmas morning, roughly 48 hours behind schedule.

Of course nobody wants their Christmas plans ruined, though I have to say, Baku is a pretty awesome city, and I wouldn’t mind an unplanned layover of a couple of nights there.

What do you make of this Qantas diversion?

Conversations (26)
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  1. Virgilio Ponio Guest

    I rather spend my christmas where i should be at least im alive and safe lets give thanks to the lord Jesus Christ for saving us again and to quantas airways always pray for a safer journey merry christmas to all

    1. Toobis Guest

      Yep Jesus definitely flew that plane safely to Baku...And he hand built the aircraft as well!
      What a guy!

  2. Skylash Guest

    I'd probably station that spare plane in DXB. Good maintenance facilities so you can rotate the spare plane and you can reach a lot more distant destinations that QF serves.
    Though the intent of the spare is for a quick hotswap at SYD. Maybe a thought if they wanted a 2nd spare :)

  3. iamhere Guest

    I don't think having the spare plane parked in Sydney is sensible. They should have the spare plane parked somewhere somewhat in the middle of where they usually fly. Then this way if a diversion happens then it will not be that long to deal with it. I would be interested to know the details of what they did about this situation. Were the passengers stranded in the airport? Where were they sent for a hotel, etc?

    1. Mike C Diamond

      QF currently operate the A380 on two routes, SYD-SIN-LHR and SYD-LAX so unless they have two spare aircraft SYD is probably the most efficient option. DXB would perhaps be good if London were the only route. From what I've read, QF put the pax in hotels in Baku.

  4. Renato Lutz Guest

    I was on a team who investigated the Swissair 111 crash. Any indication of fire, put it down as fast as you can! You have little time if any. Christmas or pax convenience doesn’t matter. Duh!

  5. Alan Guest

    Decent effort from QF, more than could be said for LH with their recent diversion!

  6. E Braun Guest

    The aircraft has seen better days. Between spar cracks and engine problems it's time to put the 74 back carrying passengers. It's much more reliable.

  7. Tim Dunn Diamond

    With Russian airspace closed by choice to many countries, traffic over Central Asia has skyrocketed. While this flight was not deviating far from where it would have operated even w/o the sanctions, it was a given that there was going to a major diversion somewhere in Central Asia.
    Would be interesting to hear some passenger accounts. This is clearly a much more challenging diversion than LH's to Turkey

  8. Jack Guest

    In a situation like this, you would think that airline alliances might be able to step in and make the rescue effort easier. Surely easier for BA or another Oneworld partner to send a 777 (or 380 if it's BA) to take these passengers on to LHR. Qantas foots the bill but BA does the rescue flight, passengers get away much faster, cheaper costs because it's a much shorter flight. I guess maybe Qantas needed...

    In a situation like this, you would think that airline alliances might be able to step in and make the rescue effort easier. Surely easier for BA or another Oneworld partner to send a 777 (or 380 if it's BA) to take these passengers on to LHR. Qantas foots the bill but BA does the rescue flight, passengers get away much faster, cheaper costs because it's a much shorter flight. I guess maybe Qantas needed to send the 380 anyway to operate the next day's flight from LHR back to SYD?

    1. Phillip Gold

      Qatar would have been an obvious rescuer but they are neither friends with Qantas nor do they have spare aircraft, I imagine! BA would probably be in the same situation of aircraft unavailability. It’s one of the busiest times of the year and between industrial action and weather fronts, it’s been quite a challenging week for aircraft schedules.

      And for that reason Heathrow’s curfews have been thrown out of the window. Qantas could push it if they wanted to!

  9. S. Hintley Guest

    The best news...no one injured..plane safe.

  10. Andy Diamond

    At least there are plenty of very nice hotels in Baku and I suppose they had capacity.

  11. DTS Guest

    Were the passengeres provided with visa on a short notice so they could leave the airport?

    1. Andy Diamond

      In general, most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival. But I guess in case of a diversion they don’t even need this.

    2. OFJ Guest

      Azerbajian is the only officially racist country in the world. No Armenians may enter - even for those who do not carry Armenian passports. There is no other country in the world like this - not Iran, not North Korea, NO ONE ELSE. I'd be curious to see if there were any passengers with Armenian birth or name onboard.

    3. Vince Guest

      Technically, a Palestinian US passport holder (or any country, really) cannot enter Israel at TLV...

    4. Dude26 Guest

      People throw around 'fake news' at anything, but this is fake news. Total lie.
      Nothing 'technical' or not. No such rule or law.
      And in fact many arabs of different nationalities (US, EU nations, etc) land an TLV and admitted entry. Some will not be admitted entry due to being deemed a security risk, which makes sense given a 100+ years of Israeli-arab war...

    5. Donato Guest

      That is astounding news. I must share it with my banker in NYC. He is pure Palestinian but emigrated and works in NYC. He told me he visits family in Israel every other year. I actually asked him how crazy his treatment was and he told me it was usually routine, Sometimes he was searched for dangerous items. Seemingly once he was considered safe they even joked with him. Really lucky he did not know that he was not allowed to enter.

    6. Dempseyzdad Diamond

      You cannot enter Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Kuwait or Sudan with even an Israeli *STAMP* in your passport. Doesn't matter what country you have a passport from. Many who travel to Israel and one of those other countries have removable pages for their passports or a different passport altogether.

    7. twoclicks Guest

      Hi — Israel has not stamped passports for many, many years - at least a decade? So this info is out of date. Never heard of removable pages in a passport tbh.

  12. Soloflyer1977 Guest

    And a fair few would have had connecting flights across UK/Ireland/Europe. Arriving into LHR on Xmas day to be met by border strikes and train strikes...

    1. Lumma Guest

      There'd be no trains on Christmas Day or Boxing Day in the UK anyway.

  13. Creditcrunch Diamond

    And then these poor passengers will be greeted into LHR with Border Force officials on strike with the army backfilling.

    1. Brendan Noonan Guest

      I wonder why they didn't divert to Dubai?
      As the largest A380 operator in the world and a code share partner of QF. I'm sure Emirates would have helped. In addition, they have 2 flights a day to Sydney

    2. Stewart K Guest

      You’d choose to fly nearly 2,000 kms further than Baku with the risk of a fire potentially starting in the cargo hold? Qantas made the right call, not the most operationally expedient call.

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.

Andy Diamond

In general, most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival. But I guess in case of a diversion they don’t even need this.

2
Toobis Guest

Yep Jesus definitely flew that plane safely to Baku...And he hand built the aircraft as well! What a guy!

1
Renato Lutz Guest

I was on a team who investigated the Swissair 111 crash. Any indication of fire, put it down as fast as you can! You have little time if any. Christmas or pax convenience doesn’t matter. Duh!

1
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