A flight had to make an emergency landing. Some people might be surprised by the airline's decision to divert.

American’s Los Angeles to Tokyo flight diverts to Seattle

American Airlines flight AA169 was going to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda. Two days later, the flight was supposed to leave at 11:56PM. The registration code for the plane was N870AX.

The flight left more or less on time at 12:14AM. The first time the plane flew up the coast of California it flew over the ocean. A passenger on the plane had a medical emergency after leaving.

The crew decided to go somewhere else. The flight did not divert to Anchorage, which was only 250 miles away. The plane went to Seattle instead of returning to the lower 48. It took three hours for the plane to arrive in Seattle.

An American Boeing’s 787 diversion to Seattle

The flight from Los Angeles to Seattle took 7.5 hours, and passengers arrived in Seattle before 8AM.

People wonder why flights don't go to the nearest airport. When an emergency isn't life threatening, diversion decisions consider more than just the nearest airport. I think the operations department of American decided that it would be better to have customer service representatives at the airport in Seattle rather than in Alaska.

I wonder if it is possible for a medical emergency to take seven hours to be treated. It seems riskier to return to the lower 48 and fly over Canada. Immigration would become more complicated if the emergency became more serious.

The Boeing 787 diverted while near Anchorage

The flight will get to Tokyo 24 hours late

There was a full planeload of passengers and a crew that was late for work. The airline doesn't have a crew base in Seattle so finding a replacement crew would be difficult.

Haneda Airport doesn't have a curfew, but it does have no flights between 12AM and 4:30AM, so it was a factor in terms of staffing. It made sense to arrive at a good time so that as few people as possible got stuck.

The decision was made to change the Seattle to Tokyo Haneda flight to the next day. After arriving in Seattle shortly before 8AM, passengers took off shortly before 2AM the next morning. The flight is on it's way to Tokyo Haneda and should land before 5 AM.

The Boeing 787 is now enroute to Tokyo Haneda

The November 8 and November 9 AA 169 services are scheduled to land in Tokyo at the same time.

AA169 November 8 flight status
AA169 November 9 flight status

Bottom line

The passengers on the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo were going to have a lot of fun. The plane was in the air for over seven hours after it was diverted to Seattle due to a medical emergency.

The crew timed out in Seattle, so passengers were accommodated in hotels, and ended up leaving around 2AM the next day. At the same time as the next day's Los Angeles to Tokyo flight, there will be a flight to Tokyo.

What do you think about this diversion?