How American Handled the Shanghai-Chicago Flight’s Diversion to Remote Alaska

On October 12, an American flight, AA 288, from Shanghai to Chicago encountered an engine issue, and had to be diverted to Cold Bay, Alaska. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was carrying 100 passengers and 14 crew members, and made the unexpected landing at around 9:45 am.

American Airlines flight 288 made a diversion to Cold Bay, Alaska enroute from Shanghai to Chicago.

American Airlines flight 288 made a diversion to Cold Bay, Alaska enroute from Shanghai to Chicago.

Cold Bay (CDB) is a small airport with only one regularly scheduled commercial route, but has one of the longest runways in Alaska. In fact, it was built during the Aleutians campaign against the Japanese in World War II. Still, the former World War II base is located in a city with a population of just 105. Coupled with the bad weather and limited capabilities, it was quite a challenge to get things back in order.

American Airlines detailed what happened in their Arrivals newsletter for employees. Apparently, flight attendants were able to offer a meal service once on the ground, and the pilots and an AA employee flying non-rev helped offload luggages. On the other hand, the Coast Guard opened a heated hangar for the passengers.

Cold Bay mayor Candace Schaack said that they made sure fire crew was standing by, and a local clinic was opened for precaution, even though there were no reported injuries.

American Airlines flight 288, from Shanghai to Chicago, made an unexpected landing in Cold Bay, Alaska. Photo by Candace Schaack for Alaska Dispatch News.

American Airlines flight 288, from Shanghai to Chicago, made an unexpected landing in Cold Bay, Alaska. Photo by Candace Schaack for Alaska Dispatch News.

Later that day, American Airlines worked with their partner Alaska Airlines to fly a spare Boeing 737 to Cold Bay. That plane flew the passengers to Anchorage the same night, where the AA employees were able to arrange accommodations and meals. American Airlines then rebooked passengers, and arranged a replacement plane for a flight back to Chicago.

The 787 with the issue received parts from Cincinnati via a charter flight, and flew to Dallas for inspection. In less than 48 hours, it was ready for another passenger flight.

Obviously no one can expect issues like this, but it looks like American Airlines handled the diversion pretty well. It took (quite literally) a village to get things all sorted out, and it’s a great story that illustrates how two airlines, their employees, the local community, etc. can all work together when things go wrong.

Comments

    • Hi Greg! I don’t have direct access to the content of the newsletter cited in the article, and the information was provided by an AA employee who does. The article was written with information from a variety of publicly available news sources, links to which are all included in the post.

  1. Nice to hear how well a small Alaska town/village with a population equal to the number of passengers on a plane arranged a warm place for all the unexpected visitors to hang out till Alaska Airlines was able to fly in and give them a ride to the nearest airline hub. Great job Cold Bay! From one Alaskan, you did our state proud! Alaska Airlines good pitch hitting getting the passengers out the same day!!!

  2. Amazing how AA can resolve in 2 days but my son and I can’t check in on the same PNR even though we have different middle names, different birthdays, unique AAdvantage numbers and our own Global Entry numbers – all part of the same PNR – because ‘the computer” thinks its a duplicate booking. Been this way for years.

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