United 958 was flying from Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow on Friday, June 12, when it had to divert to Goose Bay, Canada, due to a mechanical issue.
Fortunately, the plane landed and the passengers and crew are safe. The Daily Mail reports:
Hundreds of men, women and children have been abandoned at remote barracks in Canada for 20 hours so far after their United Airlines flight from Chicago to London made an emergency landing.
For those that don’t know, the town of Happy Valley – Goose Bay (population 7,500) is way out there. It’s part of Labrador in extreme eastern Canada. You’ve probably flown right over and never knew it. That’s because it’s the point at which you say good-bye to North America on your way to Europe and the first point you see on the way back.
The flight path from Flight Aware shows that United 958 actually returned to Goose Bay after having started across the Atlantic.
The passengers are safe, whether they are cozy is another matter. Again from The Daily Mail:
The passengers were apparently forced to sleep in uncomfortable beds with only two blankets and no heating at Goose Bay barracks on Friday night after landing due to a ‘fault’ with the aircraft.
They have reportedly been given only two meals, have had ‘no word at all’ from United Airlines – and two elderly passengers were even ‘dumped’ at the wrong part of the barracks and left overnight.
It was reported to be near freezing that night. It’s unclear why the barracks didn’t have heat, though it’s possible that “near freezing” is actually considered warm by the Canadian Forces who usually occupy the barracks. At any rate, let’s just hope that the blankets were issued by the troops and were not the United blankerchiefs from the plane — the ones that measure 2 feet by 4 feet and are roughly the thickness of gauze.
— Erica Keogan (@EricaKeogan) June 13, 2015
The diversion to Goose Bay in and of itself is not particularly newsworthy. Planes divert there all the time due to it’s proximity to the transatlantic flight paths. And of course, it’s better to divert there than end up in the drink. The issue here seems to be the way United handles mishaps these days.
But while the passengers remain hungry, cold and ‘confused’, the crew spent the night at a hotel in Newfoundland and Labrador, passenger Simon Millward told DailyMail.com from the barracks.
Well, that pretty much speaks for itself.
Anyway, United eventually responded on Twitter.
@SurrogateNerd The crew must rest in order to continue the flight. You can rest on board the aircraft knowing that they are in charge. ^CA
— United (@united) June 13, 2015
Continue the flight? That probably would have been nice. Nope, it was cancelled. Reports are that it was an issue with the rudder.
United opted to send a replacement plane from Newark to rescue the passengers. Except it was delayed nearly 5 hours due to a mechanical issue of it’s own. That should give these people a lot of confidence.
Like I say, diversions to Goose Bay aren’t that uncommon especially for United. It’s gotten to the point that Jeff Smisek should really consider adding Goose Bay to the route network given the number of United flights that stop there, particularly in the winter when the Boeing 757’s sometimes can’t carry sufficient fuel to make the return trip in one hop.
But until then, United will continue to outsource their customer service to the Canadian Forces. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they do a fine job, and in fact, reports indicate that their hospitality this time around was impeccable. It does make me wonder though what rate United has negotiated with the CFB for lodging.
Like I say, I’m glad that everyone is safe and sound.