The tale of Tuesday’s AA flight 145 is an odd one. The plane departed Tel Aviv on time, at 12:50am and seemed like it would be an uneventful red-eye flight to New York.
Like most flights to and from Israel, it was just about completely full, with 271 passengers and 13 crew members on the 777-200 that has 273 available seats.
DDF member momo613 was flying with his wife and 5 kids on the flight, connecting in JFK to get home to Los Angeles. He wrote about his experience on the flight and why it was diverted on the DansDeals Forums.
Rafael Chemtob also posted updates on the flight situation to the DansDeals Facebook Group.
No announcement was made asking for a Doctor, as would be typical in diversions for a medical situation.
Many passengers only noticed something was up when the in-flight map changed their destination to Rome. I am curious as to why Rome was chosen over Milan given their position at the time, though as far as flight diversions go, those are not bad cities to wind up in.
The pilot finally made an announcement about 10 minutes before landing in Rome that they were diverting due to a medical emergency and that they would figure things out after landing and passengers would be met by American Airlines agents. Momo613 noted that the Hebrew announcement on the plane had more detailed information, including that they would be sent to a hotel.
While most medical diversions are met with EMTs and an ambulance upon landing, that didn’t happen here. Instead everyone deplaned as they normally would after a flight. The crew went on their way, leaving all 271 passengers waiting for their bags with no agents in sight.
The plane landed at 3:46am local time.
About an hour after landing a Rome airport agent said they were trying to get an American Airlines agent to come to the airport, but in the meantime, people should wait for further instructions.
Passengers wait around for information:
No water or food was provided to the bewildered passengers while they waited. And there was no communication from the airline. It was never made clear to the passengers why they couldn’t drop the passenger off and continue on their way.
After some 5 hours of waiting, everyone’s bags came out and an airline agent said they would provide bussing to a hotel. The agent said that accommodation on earlier flights would not be possible and that the same plane would take them to JFK at 7:30am the next day, some 28 hours after landing in Rome. momo613 asked the agent if they could also arrange for kosher food, as there were many kosher observant passengers on the flight and says the agent tried calling, but wasn’t able to reach their local kosher caterer.
At first, momo613 said he was actually excited to land in Rome, a city he had always wanted to explore. But as the hours ticked by, that excitement turned into agravation.
DDF member sb5917 had a friend on the flight and asked for help from DDF as other flights from Rome to NYC were all full and he had to get home that day. DDF member ckmk47 found flights available to purchase via London that day and sb5917 booked his friend on that flight.
After everyone had their bags, it still took hours longer for buses to arrive and bring passengers to the hotel that American contracted with.
Making good use of the time waiting in the airport:
I asked for comment from American. I was told the diversion was due to a medical issue onboard, but they wouldn’t provide comment on why it took so long for passengers to get back to NYC. I’d assume that the crew timed out and couldn’t continue the flight, though there have been plenty of diversions where the plane has continued onward, but that likely boils down to timing.
Once finally at the hotel at about 10am, passengers lined up to check-in, but they were told that rooms wouldn’t be available until 2pm and to check-in then. There was still no water provided to the passengers.
At the Ergife Hotel:
Rabbi Hillel Dovid and his wife Sarah Krinsky were on the flight. Mrs. Krinsky grew up in Milan and noted that it would have been so convenient if they just landed in her hometown!
Her father was Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik, the long serving Shliach and Rav in Milan, who passed away last yearafter 6 decades of service to that community. Mrs. Krinsky called the local Chabad House and sponsored plentiful kosher food for all of the exhausted passengers, to be delivered to the hotel while people waited for their rooms, in merit of her father. The Hazan’s and the Lazar’s, the local shluchim, delivered an incredible spread on short notice that fed everyone, along with plenty of leftovers to bring back to their rooms once passengers were able to check in.
Chabad shluchim are truly a kosher traveler’s best friend and I hope people donate generously when they utilize their services while traveling!
Boxes and boxes of food were sent from Chabad of Rome for the passengers on the flight at the hotel:
Sidebar, but I can’t help but also note that Mrs. Krinsky’s son, Levi, was with me on bochur shlichus, when we spent a year together volunteering at a school in Sao Paulo, where I started this website. He was one of my original partners in crime in travel, as we used vouchers from American that provided free worldwide travel after taking 2 flights from NYC to California or Florida. We used those vouchers to fly from Brazil to Tokyo, with stopovers in Dallas, Los Angeles, NYC, and Miami, while spending our month-long winter break helping out shluchim in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe, Japan. For the real old timers, that’s also why there weren’t many posts in January 2005 😀 . Levi now owns the delicious Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse (don’t miss the cream cheese frosted cinnamon bun!)
Levi and 20 year old me in Tokyo, January 2005:
After finally getting hotel rooms, some people went to explore Rome, but many were exhausted and took the opportunity to nap. momo613 asked for 3 rooms to have space for their party of 7, and that was granted.
Rafael Chemtob went out to dinner at Baghetto Milky, where he had the amazing pastas that I wrote about in my Rome Trip Notes.
momo613 went for a nap and went out at 9pm to see the coliseum and the Roman forum.
He blames American for the unwarranted diversion and the lack of communication, but acknowledges that it was a freak occurrence and if American is the least expensive option next time, he wouldn’t hold this against them. He does wonder if he should have just separated from the group and booked his own hotel room instead of waiting around for hours. I noted that the airline very likely would have reimbursed him had he done that, and if he paid on the right credit card, that would also be an option for obtaining reimbursement.
Rafael Chemtob also faulted American for leaving them for hours without any information on what was going on, for refusing to rebook people on other flights, and for failing to provide any water or kosher food. He also said the airline never communicated how or when they would get back to the airport, but the hotel told everyone to be ready to depart at 3:30am and the group traveled on buses in the early morning hours to the airport.
Unfortunately they got to the airport to find it locked as the terminal doesn’t open until 5am and had to wait outside until it opened..
They flew to JFK on the same plane, with the flight renumbered as AA9600, which departed Rome at 8:14am. American had obtained some kosher meals for the flight, but many people didn’t receive their kosher meals, which American agents blamed on the local caterer.
Rafael asked me if they’re entitled to compensation. Israeli law does require airlines to pay 3,180 ILS (about $951) to passengers on flights that were delayed 8 or more hours. It’s unclear to me if it would apply in this case, but that’s where I would start. I’d also ask the airline or the credit card used to pay for the flight to cover any incidental charges caused by the delay.
The flight finally arrived in JFK at 11:11am yesterday, nearly 42 hours after the flight departed Tel Aviv and nearly 30 hours more than scheduled. But not everyone’s journey ended there, momo613 along with his wife and their 5 kids still had to fly to Los Angeles, which left them with a 50 hour flight home.
I’ve flown on thousands of flights and thank G-d have yet to be diverted, which is saying something considering my luck with American. Here’s hoping that streak continues, because doing this with overtired kids sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of.
Do you think this diversion was justified? Could American have done a better job here?