Passengers upset after flight minutes from landing returns to departure airport


Passengers on a late night flight to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tuesday were confused when the plane — just minutes from landing — instead returned to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Passengers and those waiting at the airport for loved ones to arrive told KRQE that it was a clear calm night. After the flight’s captain told passengers they were returning to DFW but didn’t give a clear reason why — passenger Leighann Gagnon said other staff told her it was because there was no one in the control tower at Santa Fe’s Municipal Airport.

While the airport’s control tower is unstaffed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., flights can still land — and do so on a regular basis — KRQE reported.

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American Airlines and airport staff clarified to KRQE that it was due to a technical malfunction at the National Weather Service — which could not provide a wind speed reading to the pilot. A wind speed reading is require by law in order to land, KRQE reported.

Passengers were miffed that American Airlines didn’t land in Albuquerque — but American officials said they don’t operate out of Sunport International Airport — so that’s why the flight returned to DFW.

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When passengers arrived back at DFW at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, everything was closed and passengers were not offered a voucher for a hotel or a meal — KRQE reported. Passengers couldn’t access their luggage because airport staff were not available. American Airlines officials said since it was not at fault — it could not issue vouchers per company policy.

Passengers took off for Santa Fe at 7 a.m. Wednesday. This time — the flight landed successfully at Santa Fe’s Municipal Airport.

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