FlyerTalk Member Reports on Experience of Emergency Airplane Diversion to Goose Bay

Boeing 767-300 aircraft operating as United Airlines flight 958 from Chicago to London diverted to rural Goose Bay in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador last week due to a mechanical issue which has yet to be officially identified publicly, according to numerous sources.

The 176 passengers aboard the aircraft were reportedly forced to endure near-freezing conditions in military barracks without heat for greater than 20 hours; and were outraged that the airline did not reach out to communicate with them pertaining to this incident. Meanwhile, members of the flight crew reportedly stayed at a hotel.

A replacement aircraft finally arrived at the airport — which serves the town of approximately 7,500 people — to bring the passengers to Newark Airport before continuing on to their original destination of Heathrow Airport, which is one of the international airports which serves the greater London metropolitan area.

Here is a first-hand account of the incident as reported by FlyerTalk member nautical, who was a passenger on the aircraft in question:

first, i want to start by thanking the captain of this flight. we only found out later how severe the issue was. there was a deadheading FA in first that said other FAs were in tears thinking the plane was going down. what really matters in this story is that we had a super professional captain that landed a broken plane in Goose Bay. apparently, a rudder had jammed in the back. i was in J and it just felt like turbulence. but, in the back, apparently the vibration was severe. by the the time the co-pilot got back from checking it out, warnings were going off in the cockpit.

it really puts things into perspective. the final 20 minutes of that flight where the most silent of any plane i’d been on. we all had the map up just watching the path, altitude, and air speed. FAs ran through yelling “stow everything that’s loose” – just made is nervous about a really rough landing. that said, we did come in a little hard (didn’t dump fuel) and burned up the brakes stopping with a full load, but nobody was injured. THAT’s the part that the media is missing in this story.

apart from the awesome crew, everything about united’s handling of this flight was horrible. the folks in Goose Bay were awesome; that should be mentioned as well. but UAL was silent the entire ordeal.

the first bus off the plane took F and J to customs then the barracks (no luggage, of course). all of us were placed in barracks 306, which was one of them without heat. the thermostat in my room said 14 C, which is about 57 F. i didn’t have a blanket at all, only 2 sheets (one for under me, one over me). it was a very unpleasant night. on top of that, they didn’t coordinate the rooms very well. about an hour after settling in, i was awaken by a 21 year old girl yelling at her mom in the adjoining room. you can imagine sharing the bathroom in the morning was awkward.

the base did what they could and really did bend over backwards. there were buses swinging around to barracks every 15 mins to and from the mess hall. meals were passable; also not worth complaining about since it’s nearly impossible for a town that small to plan on handling a full 767.

my real beef is with United on how they handled things. we had ZERO knowledge from them. our only updates came when people at the barracks would post new pieces of paper with an updated departure time.

we were told the night prior that a replacement 767 was coming in the morning that would continue straight to LHR. that plane never made it, as it was grounded for maintenance.

the second plane came around 5pm local time. we boarded and were told we’re going back to EWR and NOT onto LHR. that plane then was delayed for further maintenance (crazy pattern, right?). funny thing is that ANOTHER UA plane had an emergency landing while we waited. it was medical though, but still ironic.

got to EWR around midnight local time. had to clear customs and claim our bags, despite using the same aircraft to go back to LHR. re-check line was 2 hours. it was a mess. eventually agents gave up and said “just use your same seats as last night”.

in the meantime, UA canceled flight 940 so that we could take the spot (now UA2063). some of those PAX rebooked onto our flight, which created havoc on board with duplicate seats. disaster.

they’ve offered a refund of that leg + 25k miles or $500 ecert.

crew = awesome; pilot is a hero
Goose Bay folks = really accommodating and so nice
canadian beer = passed the time a lot quicker
United = worst experience ever

This report — as we all as other reports — contrasts with a similar incident back in January of 2013 involving a Boeing 777-200 aircraft operating as Delta Air Lines flight 201 from Johannesburg to Atlanta which diverted to Ascension Island due to a problem with one of its engines, reportedly prompting fuel to be dumped before landing.

Another Boeing 777-200 aircraft operating as Delta Air Lines flight 9978 arrived at Ascension Island to safely take the passengers and flight crew to Atlanta. The total delay was approximately 20 hours and 30 minutes; and a new engine was reportedly flown in on a Boeing 747 aircraft to repair the disabled Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

Although many aspects of the diversion of United Airlines flight 958 — the length of the delay, the lodging conditions, the meals served as three examples — were similar to those of Delta Air Lines flight 201, there are two main differences:

  • Ascension Island was far from both the origination and the destination of the flight operated by Delta Air Lines; whereas Goose Bay is within approximately three hours from at least three airports considered to be hubs of United Airlines
  • Employees of Delta Air Lines reacted as soon as possible pertaining to the incident on Ascension Island, with at least some official communications to the stranded passengers; whereas United Airlines seemed to have been nowhere to be heard or found for much of the duration of the incident

 

Thankfully — as with the diversion of Delta Air Lines flight 201 to Ascension Island — it appears that no one died or was injured as a result of this incident, which could have ended in quite a different and tragic manner had it not been for the alert and well-trained flight crew.

Still, it seems that spokespeople for United Airlines may have some explaining to do; and it is possible that United Airlines may be under the scrutiny of the Department of Transportation of the United States as a result of this incident…

Imagery ©2015 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2015 courtesy of Google Maps. Some labeling by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “FlyerTalk Member Reports on Experience of Emergency Airplane Diversion to Goose Bay”

  1. Santastico says:

    United has to be the worst airline in the US. Period!!!! Yes, we can all hate Delta for their bragger CEO and by killing their loyal program BUT at least they run the best operation in the US and treat customer really well. They are the “cool kids”. AA is like that kid in school that follows the cool kids. They are not ambitious enough to the the leader but try to stay on the same course of the leaders. They are copycats most of the times but don’t drop the ball. Then comes United. Who are they? They are that old grumpy uncle that you only see once a year in a family reunion. Nobody cares about him but you still have to invite him. He is old, outdated, grumpy, complains about everything but never offer a good solution or value to the situation. He is not cool and not a “cool wanna be”. He thinks he is always right when the entire world knows he is wrong. Thus, who still flies United? Who spends money on the supposed international first class? They have the worst fleet, terrible customer service but still think they are cool.

  2. flyingbaron says:

    Have not flown “the friendly skies” for many years. I am familiar with Labrador and is truly a cold and somewhat desolate place . People there are hospitable by design. United may be the worst of the legacy carriers but we have been in a crisis as far as “customer service ” goes with the airlines for along time . We’ll see if the folks in Congress do anything about it . I fly non US base carriers any chance I get .

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