Yesterday I flew from San Diego to Boston in a commercial 737 operated by Alaska Airlines. Before landing we spent almost an hour circling. When we finally landed, many passengers were surprised to learn that we were not in Boston; we were still 90 miles / 150 km away.
The flight attendants told us the pilots had been too busy to announce the diversion. When the captain finally made an announcement on the ground, he said we had been redirected because the wait for Boston was 60 minutes and "we only had about 10 minutes of fuel left."
The cause was snow in Boston. Many flights were cancelled. However, visibility was excellent where we were and the flight was smooth. So I was surprised that we were diverted.
According to flightaware, we started circling at approximately 4pm; we were diverted at 4:48pm and landed at BDL at 5:03pm. Our scheduled arrival time was 5:06pm. (We departed on time.)
Below is the flight path (source).
I was hoping that some people more knowledgeable than myself could help me better understand what was going on.
- Does "10 minutes of fuel left" mean 10 minutes until empty or 10 minutes until it becomes urgent? I find it hard to believe that there was so little reserve fuel, especially given that we were in the air for the scheduled amount of time.
- Would this situation count as a fuel emergency? Was it comparable to this incident?
- How low do commercial jets normally go fuel wise? In particular, how common is it to have 10 minutes of fuel left when landing?
- Can I find out more information about my flight online? I only know of flightaware. Is it possible to find ATC radio recordings?