Series of unfortunate events hits Aeromexico flight

So embarrassed was Aeromexico about a string of circumstances “beyond the airline’s control” that occurred during one of its flights from Mexico City to Seattle last week that it felt compelled to put out an apologetic media statement.

And it does sound like it was a nightmare flight. To cut a long story short, Flight 670 on 20 January left the Mexican capital for Seattle but had to divert to Portland due to heavy fog. Once on the ground at Portland, it was discovered that there were no customs officials present to process the passengers.

After a four hour wait on the aircraft, the decision was taken to fly the passengers all the way back to Mexico City. I’m so glad I wasn’t on that flight.

Needless to say, Aeromexico, which “prides itself on service to its passengers”, is carrying out a review to “determine if the circumstances could have been handled in a more effective way”.

I’ve an idea – how about contacting Portland before landing there to make sure there’d be some customs officials available to stamp people’s passports? Just a simple thought.

Here’s Aeromexico’s statement in full:

AeroMexico statement about Flight # 670,

08:45 AM PST on Thursday, January 22, 2009

Media Statement About Flight # 670, 1-20-09

AeroMexico deeply regrets that our passengers on flight #670, bound from Mexico City to Seattle-Tacoma, were inconvenienced by an unfortunate set of circumstances on Tuesday, January 20, that were beyond the airline’s control.

Before the flight departed from Mexico City, the pilots had received authorization from Seattle to proceed. Heavy fog conditions developed later in the Seattle-Tacoma area, which forced Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to close its operations for all arrivals and departures. Due to these circumstances which were outside the airline’s control, the plane had to divert and went to Portland, which was the closest international airport. Passenger safety is AeroMexico’s number one priority and diverting the flight was both the required and prudent action to take in this situation.

When the plane landed in Portland, there were no U.S. Customs and Immigration agents available to handle the passengers so they were required to remain on the plane, which was also outside the airline’s control. Federal regulations do not allow international flights to be completed unless all passengers go through U.S. customs.

The plane was parked at the airport for approximately four hours. When it became apparent there would be no customs agents available in Portland to process the passengers and the weather in Seattle-Tacoma was not improving, it was decided that the best alternative that would minimize additional time for passengers was to return to Mexico City.

On the flight back to Mexico City, the pilots and crew members were operating within the legal limits for hours on duty at all times. Food was brought on board in Portland for this return flight.

In Mexico City, new crew members boarded the plane for its flight back to Seattle-Tacoma on Wednesday, January 21. The flight reached its final destination without further incident.

AeroMexico is reviewing the incident on January 20 to determine if the circumstances could have been handled in a more effective way. We will seek an explanation about why the customs agents were not available to assist the plane and its passengers in Portland.

Our airline prides itself on service to its passengers. While the airline was dealing with several circumstances beyond its control, we intend to take all steps necessary to help avoid an incident of this nature in the future. We will also take appropriate steps to thank the passengers who were inconvenienced by this situation for their patience and understanding.

To read our earlier cover interview with Aeromexico chief executive Andres Conesa, click here.

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4 Responses to Series of unfortunate events hits Aeromexico flight

  1. malcolm petty 26 January, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    As PDX is an International Airport and does (normally) have US Customs/Immigration personnel on hand then where were they?
    Instead of going all the way back to Mexico why didn’t they go to SFO?, or even LAX??.
    Anyhow, I’m glad I wasn’t on that flight.

  2. Kerry 26 January, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    You’re right, Malcolm, it does beg the question why didn’t they fly to another US airport instead of flying all the way back to Mexico City. Maybe the PDX immigration officials were asleep, or having an extended cigarette break. Who knows?

  3. Don Wright 28 January, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    No customs at PDX International? Maybe Portland should consider deleting “International” from its airport name. Normally all that’s required is one hour advance notice for customs during business hours.
    Of course, if the flight arrived in the middle of the nnight, it would be very hard to convince a bureaucrat to get out of bed just to accomodate a plane-load of passengers.

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