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There's a weird story making the rounds in the news in France these last few days: Flight V72578 on April 15th was delayed, and then diverted, supposedly because of the destination airport's curfew. Passengers ended up arriving in LUX with a delay of 24 hours. But the facts don't quite seem to match.

The flight was scheduled as NCE-LUX (Nice-Luxembourg), originally departing at 19:35 and arriving at 21:05 (all times local).

After a number of issues, the flight departed over 2 hours late, at 21:40 local time. It flew towards LUX, but when it nearly got there, turned around, and instead diverted to LYS (!):

enter image description here

The official story is that it was getting too late and they couldn't land in LUX because of the airport's curfew.

However:

  • LUX's curfew starts at 23:00 local time.
  • There are routinely flights landing very close to that time: LH398 has a scheduled arrival at 22:45 and has recently landed as late as 22:57.
  • V72578 started turning around at about 22:27, about 100 km from LUX. It would probably have taken 15-20 minutes to land, so well before curfew.
  • It diverted to LYS (Lyon), 340 km away, at 23:09, which again shows it could have reached LUX in time.
  • At the time it turned around, it was barely further away from LUX than LH398, which landed at 22:42.

Of course one also wonders why they decided to fly to LYS when they could have diverted to Strasbourg (which is also a Volotea base) which is only 100 km away, much closer to Luxembourg, still open (and actually had a Volotea flight from Nice landing there a bit later that evening) but that's another story.

Is it possible to find out the real reason for the diversion? It seems quite unlikely this was due to the curfew in LUX and it is extremely unlikely it was due to any emergency as it chose to divert to a much further airport. LiveATC does not seem to have coverage for the area, is there any other way to get exchanges with air traffic control which could explain the diversion? Or is there any other source which could be used to determine what really happened?

I'm also surprised this would have happened this late in the flight. It should have been known quite precisely when they would land in LUX shortly after take-off, so shouldn't crew and/or LUX and/or ATC have been aware of any potential issue at that time rather than when beginning descent?

There have been quite a few stories about the social conflict between Volotea and their staff over the last few days. I don't want to think passengers could have been the losing party in some kind of hardball negotiation between crew and management!

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    $\begingroup$ I see no reason to think there's any more to it than already stated. Anything else is speculation. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Apr 20 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @GdD. On "It seems quite unlikely this was due to the curfew in LUX" to me it is quite possible. You say at 22:27 they were 15-20 minutes away, but you have no idea what traffic was already in the hold/appoach. There may have been an expected 15-20 minute hold expected (quite usual at large airports towards closing time!). $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Apr 20 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ Was the aircraft scheduled to stay overnight in LUX, or was it needed back in Nice or some other base early morning? Since they would not be able to get the aircraft out of LUX after the curfew, this may be the reason to divert. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Apr 20 at 9:07

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I don't know the actual reason, but I suspect that the curfew is indeed it.

If the aircraft would have continued to LUX, it would have arrived probably just before the curfew. Whilst this would get the passengers to their destination, the return flight to Nice (V72579) would still have to be cancelled because it would be unable to depart before the curfew.

It would also mean that the aircraft would have to stay overnight in LUX, and not be available in Nice next morning, or if it was scheduled for another flight that evening, another base. This would result in at least one additional flight being cancelled next morning, and possibly another whole day of knock on effects in the schedule.

It seems that instead they sacrificed the flight to LUX and diverted to LYS. Then, during the night they repositioned the aircraft to Marseille (MRS), from where it performed the early morning service to Dubrovnik (DBR).

Flight radar 24 screenshot showing the movements of the aircraft involved

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah indeed... Somehow I had checked the next flights but FR24 displays stuff in AM/PM format in my browser, and I had missed the "AM" in "12:34 AM". Thought it weird it could have stayed in LYS that long! Still interesting that they only realised the issue while they were about to begin descent into LUX. $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Apr 20 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @jcaron It is probably the Airline's Operations Centre that didn't see the problem in time. Given that Volotea does not have a base in LUX, and that they have only one flight a day there which is scheduled to depart the airport well before the curfew, they probably didn't realise the problem they were about to face until they filed the flight plan for the return flight. In a typical airline operation, the flight crew just flies the aircraft where the companies tells them to fly. The logistics are handled centrally op the OPS centre. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Apr 20 at 11:51

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