Southwest frustration

ozone

Well-Known Member
OK, I have a newbie question here: I was expecting my wife to arrive at 5pm by southwest last night into DIA. Her plane left late from philly and got within 60 miles of DIA. At that point, she and the other passengers were told that a "microburst" was going to cause them to have to circle for 40 minutes B4 landing. So, since the plane did not have enough fuel, they diverted to Colorado Springs and got more gas before coming back to DIA (at 8pm...grrrr).

Anyway, I was sitting in the temporary parking lot from about 4:45 through 7pm and I saw a storm about 5-10 miles west; not over the airport. Also, the WHOLE time there were frontier, united and DHL planes landing on runway 7 every 2-5 minutes. I saw various jets (dunno if any were 737's) and turboprops in the mix.

So, for all the tuesday-morning quarterbacks out there: what gives? Does southwest not put enough fuel in the planes for xc trips + extra for emergencies? Why would various jets and turboprops be able to land, but not any 737's? As a new pilot, I just couldnt figure out why the diversion and extra fuel pickup. Plus, Southwest had to have lost money on last-night's flight with having the extra landing etc.
 

BobDDuck

Island Bus Driver
As long as the weather is forecast to be good they only need to carry 45 minutes of "extra" fuel. And that fuel is for emergency use only, and sitting out weather at your destination (in my mind anyways) isn't call to use emergency fuel. So, it sounds like they had enough fuel to sit out a 30+ minute hold (which is pretty normal) and then that was it so they had to go somewhere else. As to why they were holding and everybody else was getting in? It could have to do with which arrival they were on. If the weather was to the east of the field and they were coming in from that direction then it's possible that instead of routing them all the way around the weather they elected to hold them until it moved off their route. It could be too that because of the weather there were more restriction on traffic flow in the terminal area and there were just too many planes and not enough space so they were holding people up outside the airspace.
 

ozone

Well-Known Member
hadn't thought of the fact that there could have been weather to the east. It didn't LOOK bad, but then wind is invisible. Thanks for the insights!
 

wheelsup

Well-Known Member
Also it's possible the pilots didn't feel comfortable shooting the approach. Just the other day I was #1 for t/o and it started to downpour, with lightening and thunder on the field as well as "Thunderstorms" being called on the ATIS. I pulled off to the side, waiting it out. There was an RJ behind me that took off, obviously the CA felt comfortable doing so.

If Denver is anything like Philly or New York, if weather hits then clears the traffic is still backed up afterwards because of congestion (like Bobdduck said). So that could also be a possibility. Typically we don't explain the innards of the ATC system to passengers in the air, that would take forever and just confuses people. The downside is some people will always think you are lying to them.
 
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