A German low-cost carrier resumed flights to Italy on Saturday, but had to turn around because the Italian Airport is still closed.
Eurowings flight EW9844 took off on a 730-mile flight from Düsseldorf to Sardinia’s Olbia Airport on May 23rd, and was already in Sardinian airspace before being told that the airport wasn’t open to commercial traffic.
The Airbus A320, which was carrying just two passengers, circled around in a holding pattern while asking for permission to land, to no avail.
The plane remained at 1,720 meters above sea level, with an average speed of 430 kilometers per hour for forty minutes.
According to reports, air traffic control proposed a diversion to Cagliari, about 120 miles away but the flight crew chose to cut its losses and head back to Düsseldorf.
The entire trip took a total of four hours and ten minutes.
Eurowings spokesperson said in an interview that, “Against the background of the corona crisis, the situation at numerous airports in Europe is very dynamic.”
“The large amount of information provided on operating hours or airport closures are often changed at short notice,” the spokesperson added, “and there are daily changes in entry regulations in the various countries.”
Aviation blog One Mile at a Time reports that the confusion appears to have started on Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation reopening the airport on May 17.
However, the decision was reversed only a few hours after the announcement was made.
Eurowings’ spokesperson points the blame on “a misunderstanding in the consolidation of the relevant flight information.”
A NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued on May 20th stated that carriers were informed that the Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport remains closed until at least June 2.
Part of the NOTAM said, ““Aerodrome closed to commercial aviation traffic in compliance with Regione Sardegna decree 23 of 17th May 2020.”
“General aviation activity and commercial aviation activity on demand (aerotaxi) with aircraft having maximum cabin configuration equal or less than 19 seats are approved in compliance with Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation decree 207/2020 and Regione Sardegna decree 23 of 17th May 2020.”
Both passengers, who were able to appropriately social distance on their unexpected tour, had their flights rebooked.