An eagerly anticipated new route by British Airways from London Heathrow to Florence has gotten off to a rocky start after the return flight was forced to divert to Pisa on its very first day of operation and was then cancelled on the second day.
British Airways announced the new route last December, tapping into high demand from British and American visitors who are booking trips to visit Tuscany in their droves.
Although the city of Pisa is only a short drive away, there’s still plenty of demand for direct flights to Florence and British Airways aimed to serve that demand with well-timed connections for passengers flying via its Heathrow hub from New York, Boston and Chicago.
Unfortunately, the inaugural flight on Sunday afternoon didn’t get off to a good start after the Airbus A320neo was forced to divert to Pisa to pick up extra fuel for the return journey to Heathrow.
The problem, it seems, is that Florence is a notoriously difficult airport for airlines because of its short one-directional runway and other limiting factors, including high winds and hot temperatures during the summer.
As a result, aircraft can face weight restrictions which prevent the fuel tanks from being filled to capacity, and in some cases, passengers and luggage need to be offloaded to reduce the weight.
That’s exactly what appears to have happened on BA525 on Sunday, and anticipating similar issues on Monday, the airline proactively cancelled the return flight from Florence and diverted the route to Pisa.
Passengers who were due to fly direct from Florence to Heathrow have, instead, had to catch busses for the one-hour connection between the two Tuscan cities.
It has been suggested that other airlines deliberately fly smaller aircraft to Florence because its limitations are so well known. British Airways operates much smaller Embraer regional jets to Florence from London City Airport, although even these jets sometimes have to divert to Pisa for a technical fuel stop.
Whether this becomes a regular occurrence throughout the summer remains to be seen, although BA could end up fitting a huge bill in compensation and additional landing and takeoff rights.
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.