Notes on My Emergency Landing Last Night Flying New York to Ghana on Delta

Oct 26, 2016

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If you follow me on Snapchat and Twitter, you know that I had quite an interesting evening last night on my Delta flight from New York (JFK) to Accra, Ghana (ACC). It was a beautiful night in New York and I was excited to be traveling to back to Accra with PeaceJam’s Director of Programs Kate Cumbo to visit the village of Krobos, where I became a chief on my last trip to Ghana earlier this year.

@Delta, @Delta, @Delta can I help ya, help ya, help ya? ?✈️✈️✈️

A photo posted by Brian Kelly (@thepointsguy) on

After a smooth takeoff and catching some great views of NYC, I noticed something odd about this particular flight — the flight attendants remained sitting for over an hour after takeoff and the fasten seat belt sign remained on. Then, about 90 minutes into the flight, the pilot made an announcement that we’d be turning back to JFK, due to a mechanical problem on our 767-300. They explained that they had tried to fix the issue in the air but were unable to do so. The aircraft had to be brought back to New York; passengers would need to board a new aircraft.

After the initial announcement that we’d be turning back to New York, the business class cabin remained calm, but other passengers were upset and confused, and some were giving the flight attendants an especially hard time, which prompted the crew to make another announcement explaining the severity of the issue and that the return to JFK was necessary for everyone’s safety. They told us that fire trucks would be waiting for our arrival at JFK — a standard procedure — but it made me uneasy.


As we got close to JFK once again, there was no word from the cockpit updating us on the situation, which I found to be a little concerning. In the end, we had a very smooth landing. I appreciate all the tweets I received from TPG readers on the ground keeping me updated on the flight’s status on FlightAware!

The flight path of Delta flight 420 from JFK to JFK.

Back on the ground, I was frantically looking for other options to get to Accra as soon as possible, as I needed to be there today (October 26). Delta’s customer service was great throughout this whole ordeal; Delta held seats for us on a flight to London so we could connect to Accra on British Airways as a worst-case scenario. We ended up staying on Delta’s nonstop flight, which left the airport about 6 hours after the original departure time. The airline also promptly deposited 20,000 SkyMiles into my account as compensation for the delay, which I found to be a very nice gesture.

Delta apologized for the delay and gave me 20,000 miles as compensation.

All in all, I think Delta handled this situation very well. A six hour delay isn’t too bad, and I arrived in Accra excited to visit Krobos to celebrate a special thanksgiving ceremony with the people of the village.

Despite a mechanical return to JFK and 6 hour delay, it feels incredible to be back in #Accra

A photo posted by Brian Kelly (@thepointsguy) on

At the end of the day, I made it to my destination safely, and that’s all that really matters. Now, let the celebrations begin! We’ll be shooting a TPGtv episode while we’re here, so stay tuned.

Have you ever experienced an emergency landing? Share your stories in the comments.

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