Southwest Diversion Leads to Odd Flight Path — From Washington Dulles to Washington Reagan
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Southwest helped an aircraft full of its passengers skip Northern Virginia’s traffic and toll roads — but not on their own volition and after a series of flight delay.
On Monday, Southwest Flight 5691 took off from the airline’s home base at Dallas Love Field (DAL) en route to Washington Reagan (DCA). As the aircraft got closer to the East Coast, it was ordered to circle over West Virginia and Pennsylvania to avoid the heavy storms that the Washington area was experiencing.
Low on fuel, air traffic control diverted the aircraft to Washington’s larger international airport, Dulles (IAD).
However, instead of letting passengers off at Dulles, which is about 24 miles from from Reagan airport, Southwest employees told travelers that they’d have to stay on the aircraft because it still needed to get to its final destination.
Those in the cabin weren’t having it and repeatedly asked to get off the aircraft. The crew said that because the 737 needed to ferry passengers on a separate flight from DCA to Milwaukee later that night, they couldn’t get off.
Eventually the Southwest crew gave in and let off those with carry-on bags — leaving the aircraft about half full.
“They were originally not going to let people get off the plane at all until enough people asked,” tweeted passenger Pam Krieger.
A new crew even had to replace the original group before the aircraft could head to DCA. Two hours and 15 minutes after landing at Dulles, the jet, registered N8656B, took back off for just 21 minutes in the air.
The airplane took a flightpath in the shape of an S to navigate DCA’s complicated approach — landing at 9:22pm according to Flightaware, or four hours after its scheduled arrival time.
While this type of flight might have been enjoyable for an AvGeek, Southwest still compensated passengers with a $100 voucher for the delays and apologized to the affected customers.
A friend of Kreiger commented on her odd journey, saying: “Congrats on being the first person I ever met who got to fly from IAD to DCA,” she told Kreiger. “That’s amazing.”
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