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Headwinds, ‘fuel overburn’ force United flight to return to Hawaii

  • This screenshot from shows the path of United Flight 724 on Sunday. The flight turned back because it didn’t have enough fuel to make it safely from Honolulu to San Francisco.

A United Airlines flight to San Francisco was forced to be return to Hawaii two hours after taking off Sunday because of fuel problems caused by strong headwinds.

United Airlines flight 724 left Honolulu at 12:50 p.m., but was forced to turn back because of “fuel overburn.”

An airlines spokeswoman said “fuel overburn” is caused by strong headwinds.

The plane landed safely and the 260 passengers were accommodated overnight, given meal vouchers and will be reimbursed, the spokeswoman said.

The passengers were booked on a San Francisco flight scheduled to leave at 11:42 a.m. today.

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    • Pilots have been complaining about this for quite some time how the accountants at HQ have been reducing total carried fuel to reduce weight and therefore reduce costs. This puts crew, passengers and equipment at risk.

      • Yep but ultimately the Captain has final call on the fuel load. No one likes hauling excess fuel. My friend who is a Hawaiian captain says this kind of thing happens but not that often. He said they rely on information from other flights along the same route or from flights that have completed the same route in addition to the weather reports. Sounds more like a case of headwinds that were not detected by either. Must have been real strong because the flight was operated by a 777 not a smaller aircraft and they typically load additional fuel to cover such contingencies.

        • Sad to say with many airlines, while the Captain has final call on the fuel load, loading more than the company is comfortable with may mean reduced flight time, no bonus, other issues.

          FAA should investigate to see if UA shorted the fuel load in an attempt to save money. If so, a massive fine would get UA’s attention.

      • I would think they would be required to have enough fuel to reach their destination and also carry a reserve amount in case of emergency. What happens if they get diverted to another airport at the last minute or face a delay before they can land? Doesn’t sound like safety is their chief concern.
        The FAA should take punitive action, their actions at best were reckless, at worst bordering on gross incompetence.

  • In the old days the turnaround point was called the Point of No Return or PNR. Regardless of what it’s called nowadays, though, this was a good decision on the part of the Captain.

  • This is a bunch of BS. There are hundreds of flights daily from the West Coast back and forth–they know within minutes the time and fuel required–they just pain old screwed up either on the fuel load or fuel control, i.e. altitude.

  • Seems like United Air flew without the proper amount of fuel. it is actually a pretty big screw up as mistakes like that can end up with disastrous results.
    This matter needs to be investigated by the FAA.

  • Let’s face it, the weather is weird now. The winds are a-blowin’ up there! Take a look at the average flight time from Honolulu to Osaka…and back…a full hour increase in both directions. I think there is a lot going on that we don’t know anything about in terms of weather and climate change, and exactly how close the bean counters are running the numbers to carry passengers…it may be better that we don’t.

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