August 17, 2022

Eurowings Discover seems to be having some issues operating its new flight between Salt Lake City (SLC) and Frankfurt (FRA) reliably, as it has now repeatedly stopped in Canada. I thought this would be an interesting topic to discuss on a couple of levels.

Eurowings Discover having issues in Salt Lake City

Eurowings Discover is Lufthansa’s long haul low cost carrier. The airline flies to several destinations in the United States, and I reviewed the carrier’s Tampa to Frankfurt business class service a few months ago.

The airline also flies between Salt Lake City and Frankfurt, but the route has been having some issues in recent weeks. Four of the last five frequencies on the route have required a refueling stop on the eastbound sector:

  • The flight stopped in Halifax (YHZ) three times
  • The flight stopped in Toronto (YYZ) one time

Why would a refueling stop be needed, as this 9hr30min flight is typically well within range for an Airbus A330-300? For that matter, the westbound flight takes longer, so why is there an issue on the eastbound flight?

This comes down to Salt Lake City having a horrible heat wave at the moment, and high heat and winds can impact aircraft performance. That’s especially true for an airport at a high altitude. So while an A330-300 could ordinarily operate this route without issue, the current conditions mean that the plane would need to take off from Salt Lake City heavily weight restricted.

This could be accomplished in a few different ways — the airline could leave passengers behind, leave bags behind, or instead fly to an intermediate point to refuel.

Eurowings Discover has been choosing that last option, and that has caused a two to three hour delay to the arrival time in Frankfurt.

Eurowings Discover A330 business class

Is Eurowings Discover to blame?

Fox 13 Salt Lake City turned these refueling stops into an “investigative” story of sorts, as is common on local news stations. You can watch that here. A passenger was interviewed, who was flying from Salt Lake City to Frankfurt to Copenhagen to Bergen, in order to take a cruise.

Due to the delayed arrival in Frankfurt, he ended up missing his connection, and then his bags only ended up arriving on the cruise 3.5 days later.

The news station interviewed a licensed air dispatcher, who said that the airline shouldn’t be surprised that it gets hot in Salt Lake City in July, and that the airline should factor that into its weight and fuel equations.

He said that passengers should file complaints with the United States Department of Transportation, as the airline is marketing a flight as nonstop when it’s not actually nonstop many days. He claims that the DOT has the power to do something about this.

Personally I’m a bit more sympathetic to Eurowings Discover in this case:

  • It’s uncharacteristically hot in Salt Lake City at the moment, so unless this becomes an issue for months on end, I don’t think the airline is doing a whole lot wrong here
  • Yes, the airline could further restrict seats or luggage so that the flight could operate nonstop, but I imagine passengers wouldn’t be happy either if they were bumped due to this, or if their bags were left behind
  • Travel to & from Europe is chaotic right now, and I think people have to prepare for things to not go as planned, especially if they’re boarding a cruise; in fairness, many passengers likely booked long before the summer travel rush

Maybe I’m being too lenient toward Eurowings Discover, though. Delta operates flights from Salt Lake City to London with A330-200s, and those haven’t had any refueling stops. In fairness, the London route is a bit shorter, and both Amsterdam and Paris routes are operated by the A330-900neo, which has better performance.

The A330-200 has better performance than the A330-300 for these kinds of situations, so maybe it’s time Eurowings Discover instead fly the A330-200 to Salt Lake City (the airline also has a few of those planes)?

I think the best piece of advice for passengers (which isn’t mentioned) is that if they arrive at their final destination four or more hours late, they’d be entitled to 600 Euro each in compensation as part of the EU261 policy. That’s in addition to any compensation for delayed bags.

I’m not sure Eurowings Discover is all that much at fault here

Bottom line

Eurowings Discover is struggling with its Salt Lake City to Frankfurt flight. Due to hot temperatures in Salt Lake City, the plane isn’t able to take off with a full load and sufficient fuel. Rather than leaving passengers, bags, or cargo behind, the airline is instead making fuel stops in Canada.

Is this inconvenient? Of course. But in the scheme of things airlines are doing nowadays, I personally don’t think it ranks that high up there.

What do you make of Eurowings Discover’s SLC issues? Is this the airline to blame, or is this just a cost everyone has to pay when temperatures get this high?

(Tip of the hat to Scott)

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