Düsseldorf to Mallorca via Geneva

Shortly after takeoff, and for a second time this year, the Air Berlin flight AB9422 from Düsseldorf to Palma Mallorca turned south to come to Geneva before continuing to Palma. Why?

I noticed this aircraft this morning, March 21, when looking for jet aircraft of scheduled airlines which had landed in Geneva but for which the aircraft callsign was unknown and which did not get shown on the aitport arrivals and departures list. In this case, the callsign BER85S has never been seen here before, whilst the airport web site shows no flights of Air Berlin today.

Tracking this, with the wonders of the flight tracking web sites, is relatively simple. Firstly, via the real time tracking site flightradar24.com, it is simple to enquire about this flight, and to see that the real flight number is AB9422, that it is going from Dusseldorf to Palma de Mallorca and that today it uses the Boeing 737-800 aircraft registered as D-ABBF. This site also shows some recent history: this flight, with different aircraft, has been seen on each of the last 4 days.

20120321_BER85S_att.JPGWhat is nice about flightradar24.com is that it can plot the path of flights, including replaying them in a speeded-up form, for these BER85S recent flights. Thus, a comparison of the paths of yesterday and today reveals that the flight today had not gone very far before the pilot turned south to head for Geneva.

The approach before landing at Geneva is also not the normal path. The aircraft flew right over Geneva, down to Aix-les-Bains (where there is an airport, before turning towards Lyon Satolas airport, then turning back north to come to Geneva, pasing Geneva on the North-West and finally turning to come in and land over the lake.

Via the web site flightstats.com, which allows one to check on arrivals and departures at any airport anywhere, it is simple to check on the arrival of this flight in Palma. When I looked at around 11am this flight was expected to be 4 hours late: now (at 12h15am) it is expected to arrive almost 5 hours late. By the time that you read this, it is quite possible that the aircraft, or a replacement aircraft for the same flight, will at least have left Geneva and may even have landed in Palma.

Where things got even more interesting is when I looked for any Geneva flights this year to or from Palma. Since it is normally only a summer destination, I expected to find none, but I actually found two. One of these was a flight of Darwin airline last Sunday, which came from Palma and then went straight back there: clearly a charter. The other was on Monday 27 February, when a different Air Berlin Boeing 737-800, registered as D-ABAQ, did EXACTLY what D-ABBF did today!

What happened? Why did these aircraft come to Geneva (not returning to Düsseldorf suggests that it was not a problem with the aircraft!). Did someone (important!) get on or off the aircraft in Geneva? Most importantly, what was said to the passengers?

I don't expect to find the answers to these questions: the airport management normally keeps radio silence on such events!


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