San Diego International Airport has reportedly run dry of jet fuel after a major fuel pipe leaking serving San Diego County proved harder to fix than initially anticipated. As a result, some flights from the airport are now being canceled, while others are being forced to divert for short refuelling stops.
A short ‘Notice to Air Missions’ (NOTAM) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration notes that San Diego Airport could be without any Jet-A fuel until January 7.
Some airlines have avoided major disruption by ‘tankering’ extra fuel on inbound airports to San Diego. Tankering involves carrying extra fuel from the origin airport in order to avoid refuelling at the destination airport.
Tankering isn’t, however, favored by airlines because the additional weight of all that extra fuel increases costs and is worse for the environment. It’s also not possible for all planes, especially long-haul flights, to tanker because there’s simply not enough space in the fuel tanks.
In recent days, British Airways has reportedly been able to tanker its Airbus A350-1000 service from London Heathrow for the nearly 6,000-mile flight to San Diego with just a small fuel top-up in California before flying straight back to Europe.
On Sunday evening, however, British Airways flight BA272 from San Diego to London Heathrow was forced to divert to Los Angeles for a fuel stop.
Both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are also diverting some of their flights from San Diego Airport for refuelling stops. United told passengers expecting to fly on a direct service from San Diego to Chicago O’Hare on Monday that they would be making a stop in Los Angeles to pick up extra fuel.
In a message, the airline said: “Due to an airport-wide fuel shortage at the San Diego Int’l Airport your United flight will make a stop to add additional fuel before continuing onto Chicago”.
A similar problem affected Orlando International Airport for several days in December 2022 when severe weather prevented a crucial delivery of fuel to the Central Florida airport.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
Not meaning to be an expert, but NOTAM is NOtice To AirMan. For an aviation reporter….
The FAA changed its definition of NOTAM in 2021. We covered the reasoning in this story.
You can also find further information on the FAA website here.