TUI’s Interesting Florida Triangle Flight

Filed Under: Travel

This post is specifically for aviation geeks… everyone else please stop reading now!

I live right under the approach path for Miami Airport, and that’s something I love. I spend just about all day on the Flightradar24 app looking at the planes overhead, and it has gotten to the point where I can often guess exactly which flight is overhead based on the time of day and sound of the engines.

Heck, at this point I even know which cargo planes are coming from where based on the time of day, like our Atlas Air 747 flights from Anchorage, Bogota, and Santiago.

Things get especially fun on stormy days when we have a bunch of diversions. If there’s bad weather in Miami we often see transatlantic flights divert to Orlando, and then a bit later they end up flying from Orlando to Miami. So it’s sort of funny when you have a Lufthansa A380 and British Airways 747 both operating Orlando to Miami flights.

Conversely, when there’s bad weather in Orlando we sometimes see planes divert to Miami, which is also fun.

Anyway, like I said, I thought that literally nothing flying into & out of Miami would catch me off guard… until yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I saw a TUI 787 on approach. I opened up my app and saw that it was coming from Orlando. I thought “hmmm, there must have been bad weather and it diverted.” But then I looked at the weather, and it was good in both Orlando and Miami (which is rare for a September afternoon).

Then I discovered what I think is the only route to & from Miami that I wasn’t aware of. TUI Netherlands actually operates a flight from Amsterdam to Miami via Orlando twice per week.

The flight operates with the following schedule:

OR317 Amsterdam to Orlando departing 10:20AM arriving 2:25PM
OR317 Orlando to Miami departing 3:35PM arriving 5:30PM
OR318 Miami to Amsterdam departing 6:10PM arriving 9:35AM (+1 day)

How did I not know this existed?! I find the turn times on this triangle flight to be quite interesting as well. Presumably TUI is dropping off and picking up passengers in both Orlando and Miami, and the plane has 70 minutes on the ground in Orlando, and just 40 minutes on the ground in Miami (in fairness, the Orlando to Miami portion of the trip is heavily padded).

So do passengers get to stay onboard until their destination, rather than everyone clearing immigration in Orlando? Presumably there’s a crew change in Orlando and not Miami?

While “triangle” flights like this aren’t at all uncommon globally, I actually can’t think of another international flight with two US destinations that’s part of a triangle flight. Are there any flights I’m missing? It’s entirely possible…

Anyway, I realize that I’m probably one of five people in the world who finds this interesting. Can the other four people who also find this interesting please identify themselves so I feel better about myself? 😉

Comments
  1. You’re not alone. I guess I’m 2/5, because this sounds very interesting.

    As an aside, I live under the approach path for ORD and often enjoy sitting outside and planespotting as well. 🙂

  2. I find this very interesting as well!

    I live along the approach path for SEA and while it’s almost always an AS/DL plane, it’s fun seeing the various foreign carriers, both passenger and cargo.

  3. I feel like I am the only person who uses Plane Finder instead. I find it much cleaner and less cluttered than FlightRadar.

  4. My son flew out on that flight last month. You clear customs in SFB then get back on for MIA. In the process they lost one if his bags between the 2 airports.

  5. There is also a TUI Belgium that used to do the same a few years back Brussels to SFB clear customs get back on for MIA. For some unknown reason stopped flying to Florida end of august

  6. Love weird flights like this.

    I do wonder how it works, particularly if customs and immigration are separated. 70 minutes seems too short to get all the bags off a 787 and reloaded.

  7. The used to be one AA flight triangle from Miami to Bolivia.
    it Mia-LPB-VVI-MIA
    then reduced to
    MIA-VVI-MIA
    then reduced to:
    NONE – no more fligt in AA to Bolivia.

  8. Haven’t flown the Orlando and Miami triangle but have flown the one to Bonaire and Curacao. It’s quite a clever way for them to have a higher frequency while still having the numbers to make it worthwhile. Still it’s not the most exciting prospect to first have to stop somewhere else before going home. Interestingly, some people on my flight seemed to have been unaware of the stop since most of them bought the ticket through a package holiday.
    Another surprising part of the flight was their way of checking if no luggage was left behind. Basically everyone had to get up and hold their own piece while a flight attendant would walk around and count. Unfortunately most people bring a carry-on, so you end up standing there holding it for 15 minutes after a 9-hour flight and still 3 hours to go.

  9. Also odd they operate the flight into SFB instead of MCO. SFB is in the boonies compared to MCO, but the costs are much lower (evidenced by Allegiant’s affinity for SFB). Interesting and good find.

  10. Awesome routing. Back in the 90s Lufthansa served Dallas and Houston in one rotation with FRA-DFW-IAH-DFW-FRA.

  11. Looks like there are more than 5, add me to the list. It’s gotten so bad that I would end up sleeping past midnight since a bunch of interesting flights out of BOS depart late at night. Same with you, I’ve gotten so good at it that I could usually guess which flight is based on the time and the sounds of the engines, so I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    This is why you have the best aviation blog/site out there because of posts like this haha

  12. @Lucky

    I have taken this flight a couple years back. People actually had to clear immigration in Orlando at the time and were basically given priority in the line there.

    Don’t know about the crew change since I got off in Orlando and when I flew the route it operated AMS-SFB-MIA-SFB-AMS

  13. A TripAdvisor review from January 2018 (travel in December 2017) reported:

    Upon arriving in Orlando everybody has to leave the aircraft because of USA custom regulations. Which is very inconvenient if you are continuing on this flight to Miami. Especially because you also have to pick-up your offloaded luggage and put it on an other conveyor belt again! And custom procedures at this airport are very slow.

  14. I’m from the Netherlands and I’ve actually done the flight before. When flying to Miami, there is a short stop in Orlando and only the pax for Orlando will get off board. Pax for Miami will stay on board.
    It does not seem possible to book the SFO-MIA stretch, as far as as i could see on the TUI booking site.

  15. There is no crew change in Orlando . The crew clear customs in orlando and then get back on board. They then have a few days layover in Miami and then position to Aruba.
    The flight has operated in excess of 8years

  16. Swissair used to have a similar flight in the early 1990s to Boston which on some days continued to Philadelphia, on others, to Washington. It remained an international flight throughout so you didn’t have to switch or disembark in Boston.
    The flight was on a combination of 747-300s and 747-300 Combis.

  17. Hrmm I can’t think of other US ones but am also curious. Technically this doesn’t count but for NA there’s the CX YVR flight (for now). I’ve always been intrigued about the aircraft rotations and crew staffing this route as the aircraft do HKG-YVR-JFK-HKG and vv.

  18. While not related to US cities, Cathay Pacific , Swiss and KLM have stopovers between cities in the Middle East. Not sure if traffic rights exist between these triangle flights. Air China does a daily PEK-ISB-KHI-PEK triangle flight.

  19. Condor 4x a week to ANC and on two of those flights they fly FRA-ANC-FAI-FRA. Usually from Memorial Day to mid September.

  20. I live near where the glide slope for SFO starts, and also near the SJC flight path – so its fun sometimes to see planes bound for both the airports flying around in their respective directions!

  21. @Lucky, I live in Orlando and I would see the TUI 787s flying into SFB almost every day of the week. It turns out that they offer flights for British tourists to SFB from London, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow and Doncaster. These flights are only bookable if you originate in Scotland or England. TUI also operates the mentioned Amsterdam-SFB-MIA triangle flight. However, this flight is bookable to those originating in either Florida or Europe. But you cannot book only the Orlando/Sanford to Miami leg, you must continue on to AMS.
    From what I have seen, these flights are usually almost full

  22. Let’s put it this way – I am unable to live under an approach path armed with the FlightRadar app – because nothing would get done, lol 😀 !

  23. It makes perfect sense, I live rather close to MCO and we get direct flights from every flag carrier that owns a plane able to reach us (because Disney). Miami’s also a rather popular tourist destination, so it would make sense to do flights from both using the same plane, especially since Disney/Miami tourism can only drive so much traffic from any one country.

    It is rather pleasant being able to fly out of the country without having to go to Newark or Atlanta first, tbh.

  24. I find this very interesting as well! I live under the approach for Runway 33 at BTV and love to planespot as well!

  25. TUI actually has a big presence at Orlando-Sanford airport. They serve quite a few destinations from there and I believe half of them are triangle flights.

  26. Usually this triangle flights are either drop only or pick up only. I have being in one from Miami to Chile via MEX where it was empty between Miami and MEX on both routes. The only flight where I had to deplane was SAL to MIA via GUA where I had to deplane to go through customs again

  27. KLM does this as well in Ecuador. They do AMS-UIO-GYE-AMS. They let business class passengers stay on board during the stops.

  28. Other foreign airlines fly US domestic routes, but cannot convey domestic passengers. It’s possible that foreigners can fly those domestic routes – I recall that Australia has a similar rule but if you are not an Ozzie then you can fly Qantas from, say, Sydney to Brisbane, but not if you are Oz.

    By coincidence Qantas have a flight SYD-LAX-JFK-LAX-SYD, or used to anyway. I’d guess that Ozzies could book from LA to NY but not Americans.

    For a while BA flew LHR-PHX-SAN-PHX-LHR. Probably the only 747 to fly regularly to San Diego.

  29. I also remember the QF flight mentioned above. Foreign carriers cannot pick and drop off pax or cargo on domestic only legs. That’s a violation of cabotage laws, which most countries have in place (EU may have some exceptions, but only for EU carriers). Under US federal law, waiver to cabotage restrictions may generally be granted by Executive Order during times of war or national emergency. The rules are remnants of the protectionist past where every country had its own national carriers.

  30. I live in Anchorage which has no shortage of both passenger and cargo flights to monitor. Every once in awhile we have some weird flights coming i from Russia and other places. Ted Steven’s airport stays quite busy. We also have a very busy military base, seaplane base and small plane base (Merrill Field)

  31. KL used to do this for their BOS-ICN service in the 90s before they dropped the service. The flight would run ICN-BOS-IAD-ICN. Allegedly this was due to Boston not having a runway long enough to support a 747 loaded for the Far East. The need to deplane and clear in Boston was unpopular with passengers, naturally. The flight has since resumed, but without the need for the Dulles stopover.

    Has anyone ever done the MIA international transfer? I don’t know if they still have it, but about 10 years ago when I worked for AA there were tags to use on bags transiting Miami, but to a third country (think the passenger still had to clear passport control, but their bags were transferred directly). NZ also had something similar at LAX…anybody go through that one?

  32. Flights from both OAK and SFO take off right over my house and most nights I sit in the hot tub watching youtube on my ipad with flighttracker open on my phone. Love articles like this!

  33. @Michael, Lucky moved to Miami some time ago to be closer to his familyvintage Tampa. There was a post on it at the time.

  34. The airline scheduling departments often call these “round robin” flights rather than triangle flights.

  35. I’ve been on this flight! Not AMS, but BRU-ORL-MIA. We deplaned in ORL, passed through security, then got back on the plane to fly to MIA.

    It was a really cheap deal we found but the experience was pretty horrible – not just all of the extra hassle, but the seats/food/entertainment were really bad.

  36. A few years back TUIfly NL (Arke at the time) and TUIFly BE used to have a AMS-SFB-MIA-BRU-MIA-SFB-AMS flight. Now that was interesting 🙂

  37. Hello Ben,

    My name is Pauline and I am actually the Station Manager for Tui Nl.
    It was funny to read your article!!

    TUI Nl have been operating that way for years. 99% of the passenger on the plane have a package booked with the TUI.
    Therefore the Triangle is perfect for the fly and drive Tour.
    Arriving in Orlando, departing from Miami.

    The dreamliner fly first to Orlando where everyone has to deplane and go through immigration. The aircraft is being serviced.
    The passenger with final destination Miami, board the plane again with the new passenger with final destination Amsterdam.
    The SFB – MIA flight becomes domestic.

    In Miami, the Amsterdam passenger deplane, and the new crew comes in.
    The flight becomes International again.
    We Fuel, board the last Amsterdam passenger.

    End of the Triangle

    I hope this has answered any questions you may have.

    Doei Doei – Bye Bye
    Heb een goede vlucht – Have a good Flight

  38. I worked from home for a few years and spent a lot of days on the front porch watching the LAX/SFO traffic to and from Europe and the Middle East. Tons of fun as they hit the Fairfield VOR and turn accordingly.

  39. How did I find this article and it was just posted yesterday? Wow. I live along the flight path from Orlando to Miami, work from home and have the flightradar24 on the second monitor all the time. A few years ago, I noticed a 787 flying very low and wondered what was going on. It was the TUI flight.

    I too can tell when weather is bad in Orlando because many of the flights from South America and Europe will circle overhead.

    My wife is looking for a support group for wives of husbands with our disease.

  40. I’m also addicted to Flightradar24. I live under the arrival paths to Heathrow and sometimes you get lucky and see planes flying to London City, Gatwick and Luton as well. When I’m at home I do little else.

  41. If they are not allowed to sell flights SFB-MIA anyway, why don’t they handle the SFB-MIA flight as international?
    When the plane would arrive at international gates at both SFB and MIA, passengers would be able to stay on board right?
    Does specific regulation in the USA make this illegal?

  42. TUI Belgium and Netherlands do a host of tri-angler flights due to their small source markets, but wanting to offer a wide selection of destinations.
    The best one is BRU-PUJ-SDQ-BRU

  43. Australia has a few triangle flights which are interesting.

    CX has HKG – CNS – BNE – CNS HKG
    QR has DOH – SYD – CBR – SYD – DOH
    SQ has SIN – SYD – CBR – SIN

    United used to fly LAX – SYD – MEL – SYD – LAX too with the 747.

  44. hello lucky
    If you heard BA #211 approaching MIA last night I was happily and surprisingly aboard.

    My American air -the notoriously trouble prone 767- from ZRH to PHL with a connection on to MIA was aloft about 30 minutes when the pilot announced a problem and we diverted to London Heathrow.

    We disembarked, lined up at AA rebooking, and to its credit AA had already arranged a late afternoon BA 747 ns to MIA for me.
    Had a very comfortable seat, a decent meal for economy, attentive FAS.
    When will AA finally bit the bullet and remove the old 767 aircraft?

  45. Glad I’m not the only one in Miami who lives under an approach and constantly is monitoring flightradar. The interesting cargo flights are always a highlight (Ethiopian and Cathay) as well as the daily A380 Lufthansa

  46. @Ben Yup! I live in Brickell and know many of the passenger and freighter jumbos by sound and time of day. My favorite is the 4:55pm LH463.

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