Passengers onboard a recent American Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles found themselves stranded in the British capital after their airplane was forced to divert back to Heathrow Airport shortly after takeoff because of a technical problem that knocked all of the onboard lavatories out of action.
The July 21 flight had already been delayed by more than two hours as engineers tried to fix a problem with the waste disposal system, only for it to fail yet again after the Boeing 777-300 was airborne and on its way to California.
American Airlines flight AA135 eventually departed London Heathrow at around 7:40 pm last Friday and was just flying over the west coast of Ireland ahead of its long transatlantic crossing when the pilots were forced to perform a 180-degree turn and head back to London.
The nine-year-old aircraft, which in the configuration adopted by American Airlines has a maximum capacity of 304 passengers, landed back in London a little less than two hours after departure.
Unfortunately, the plane couldn’t be fixed the same day and passengers had to stay the night in London before the aircraft was put back back into service the following afternoon.
American Airlines did not respond to a request for comment on the incident but the Aviation Herald reports that the diversion was down to malfunctioning toilets that couldn’t be fixed in the air and that would have left passengers without facilities on the 10-hour flight to Los Angeles.
Thankfully, such incidents are rare, but it’s not unheard of for planes to depart with all of the lavatories out of service.
Last November, a flight from Gran Canaria to Manchester operated by the British charter airline Jet2 was forced to divert to the northern Spanish city of Bilbao so that passengers could use toilet facilities in the airport after the onboard lavatories stopped working.
The reason the toilets stopped working on that occasion was because the waste tanks hadn’t been emptied, according to some reports. Before the plane could land in Bilbao, the passengers had to endure a lengthy hold as they waited for clearance to land.
In the case of the American Airlines incident, passengers will likely be able to make a claim for their delayed arrival under European flight delay rules that were adopted (and slightly tweaked) by the British government following Brexit.
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.