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March 2, 2005
British Airways Passenger Describes Flight

Yesterday, I wrote about the decision by British Airways to continue a flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow despite blowing an engine at takeoff from LAX. The flight almost ran out of fuel due to the lower altitude forced on it by the engine loss and had to make an emergency landing at Manchester. It turns out that BA forced the pilots to continue despite several attempts by American air controllers to get them to land simply to avoid cash penalties for flight delays which kick in at the five-hour mark.

One of the passengers on that flight just happened to be my cousin, Mike Reger, who tipped me to the Times of London article on the flight. Mike followed up with a description of the flight:

As a 50 year old seasoned traveler all seemed fine on this excursion at first ...

We lifted off from LAX and all seemed normal but then the plane shook violently and passengers on the left side of the plane started saying, "There are flames coming out of that engine!!!" Seemed to abate and then came back -- but worse. Cabin staff was active in the cabin and, after a bit, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we had a problem [Editorial note: Duh!] and we were going to circle LAX while we figured out what to do. [Editorial note (2): I'm thinking to myself, "I KNOW what to do, pal ..."]

After some minutes, the pilot came back on the intercom and told us that we were going to proceed to Heathrow on three engines, the 747 was a safe plane, blah, blah, blah. [Editorial note (3): Thinking to myself, hey, this is America -- and a democracy: shouldn't we get a vote on this? But nooooooooo.]

Eastward ho!

Sometime about when we were over Ireland, the pilot comes back on the intercom and say, "I'm afraid we have more bad news. Coming over on three engines has left us without sufficient fuel to make it to Heathrow. We need to land in Manchester." So we do and there are emergency vehicles to greet us, etc.

Now, I still need to get to Cambridge ... have to wait for another flight to take us to Heathrow. The flight will land at Heathrow at 7:00PM. Instead, we're still on the tarmac in Manchester at 7:30PM waiting for more passengers to get on the flight.

We finally land at Heathrow around 8:30PM -- more than 5 hours after our scheduled arrival time of 2:55PM. I (finally) get a taxi and make it to Cambridge.

Since that time, I have contacted British Air customer relations twice -- via their we site and have yet to receive so much as a response.


So after risking the lives of the passengers and crew, British Airways passengers still wound up with the five-hour delay that the airline avoided while purportedly making the decisions with their interests in mind. Not only that, but BA's overwhelming concern for these passengers somehow doesn't rise to the level needed to respond to their feedback regarding the risking of their lives for a few pieces of silver.

British Airways needs new management. I'd think twice about getting on board any of their flights while the same people who made these decisions still work there.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 2, 2005 5:23 AM

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