On Saturday at 2pm, a plane carrying Tui passengers who were expecting to arrive at London Gatwick found themselves approaching an airport in North Africa instead, after a flight across Sicily. The flight, number 4651, was scheduled to depart from Lamezia Terme in southern Italy at 11am British time and arrive at the Sussex airport three hours later. On board the Boeing 737 Max were 189 passengers, including young children who were returning from their holidays in the Mediterranean. Prior to their journey, the passengers were informed that there would be an unscheduled diversion.
The flight was delayed until 1:10pm UK time and when it finally took off, instead of heading northwest to London, the plane instead flew southwest to Tunisia. The reason for this unexpected change in direction was that the 737 had been tasked with delivering a part for another aircraft to Enfidha airport on the Tunisian east coast. After a 60-minute flight to North Africa, the plane remained on the ground for an additional hour to drop off the part and refuel before embarking on a three-hour flight to Gatwick. As a result of this diversion, passengers landed over four hours later than scheduled and the extra flying distance covered was 400 miles.
Airlines have the authority to make such diversions if it helps solve operational issues. Tui, the airline in charge of the flight, confirmed that Flight BY4651 made a brief stop at Enfidha-Hammamet Airport in order to deliver equipment required for another aircraft. The TOM529 aircraft had experienced a technical issue before its departure and required engineering support. The plane that made the diversion was an older Boeing 737, which was originally meant to fly from the Tunisian resort to Manchester.
Tui spokesperson apologized once again for any inconvenience caused and expressed gratitude for the passengers’ patience and understanding. In an effort to compensate for the delay, all passengers were offered a complimentary drink on board as a gesture of goodwill. Furthermore, they are entitled to claim EU261 flight delay compensation, which amounts to £350 in cash for each passenger, as per European air passengers’ rights rules.
Overall, this unexpected diversion tested the patience and resilience of the Tui passengers who were looking forward to arriving at London Gatwick. While the circumstances were beyond their control, the airline took steps to ensure their comfort during the journey and offered compensation in line with established regulations.