Homeward Bound - The Second Leg - Diverted to Singapore for a medical emergency

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August 26th 2018
Published: September 3rd 2018
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If it was not Sunday when we arrived in Dubai (I think it was, just) it was definitely Sunday (local time) when we departed Dubai at 2.40am Unlike on our journey over we were not able to walk from our arrival gate to our departure gate, we needed to take the train between terminals. Even after the time spent travelling between terminals we were able to spend a little bit of time in the Emirates Lounge. We took the opportunity to drink plenty of free mineral water and walk around a bit before facing up to the longest sector of our journey, the 13’15” leg from Dubai to Melbourne.

During the night? I’m not really sure that it actually was night because we were flying towards the sun, but all the shutters were down and the cabin lighting was low so I think we were expected to sleep. Anyhow during the ‘night’ there was a request put over the PA for a passenger with medical training. Yeah, sort of vaguely heard that in between waking and dozing, but didn’t think about it all that much until ...

We were flying over the Indian Ocean just drawing level with the western part of the Indonesian archipelago and there was another announcement - due to a sick passenger on board we are going to divert to Singapore. WTF? This is the second time that we have been on a flight direct from the Middle East to Melbourne and we have been diverted to Singapore.

In 2014 we were on an Etihad flight due to fly direct from Doha to Melbourne, but there was a problem with a gauge on the flight console. The engineers decided that the plane should divert to Singapore to be properly checked out. Sure, I agree with that. If there’s actually, or even potentially, a problem with the plane let’s get it on the ground rather than keep flying it!

Today it seems that whatever medical expertise was available on board has decided that the sick passenger might not be able to make it to Melbourne because he/she needs access to more qualified medical personnel and/or more sophisticated diagnostic tools or maybe even an operating theatre sooner rather than later. I had woken up with a nasty headache, but this paled into insignificance compared with a passenger sick enough to need a flight diverted in light of their medical condition.

So, about two and a half hours later we landed at Changi Airport. On the inflight map it was hard to see why we had diverted to Singapore rather than Perth. To our eye there didn’t seem to be very much difference in the distance between where we were when the announcement was made and the distance to Singapore or Perth. No doubt the captain has a protocol that has to be followed when a passenger takes ill mid-flight to determine whether or not to divert the flight and if so where to divert to. Bottom line, we found ourselves unexpectedly in Singapore rather than Melbourne!

While arrangements were made to get medical support to the passenger and ultimately offload him/her (and travelling companions and luggage I presume) the rest of the passengers were allowed to roam around the cabin and, importantly, make use of the toilets. The air conditioning was working so luckily they were able to keep us reasonably cool and comfortable on the plane. I deliberately was not time watching - I really did not want to know how long this diversion was taking.

Bernie’s phone was on global roaming and he had purchased a data package so he was able to get a text message to Kerry who was due to pick us up at Tullamarine Airport ... and his boss who was expecting him at work on Monday. He also felt the need to Google the flight time from Singapore to Melbourne: 7’21”. Even though we remained on board it was announced that it is a requirement that the cabin be sprayed. I don’t know what we were sprayed with (an insecticide I imagine) but the flight attendants duly walked down the aisles discharging a spray into the cabin.

Eventually the Captain announced that the passenger had been off loaded and he hoped to have us back underway in about 45 minutes to an hour. Again, I didn’t actually time this to see if the Captain was true to his word. When the paperwork was done and we had been allocated a take-off slot by air traffic control we were back in the air and, finally, on the last leg of our protracted journey to Melbourne.

When the flight data came up after take off it indicated that we were going to complete the flight in about 6’20” and arrive in Melbourne a bit before 4.00am on Monday morning AEST. Yay, they’re going to shave around an hour off the usual flight time between Singapore and Melbourne. Maybe they took on some fuel while we were in Singapore so we have plenty of fuel to burn flying the plane faster?? Or maybe there’s just a really strong tailwind blowing our way at the moment? I didn’t really care why - it was such a relief to be anticipating one less hour cooped up in the damn plane.

Despite me thinking it would be impossible to get a pain killer from the flight crew Bernie, bless him, asked one of the flight attendants if she could give me some aspirin. No, sorry, we can only give out aspirin in the case of a suspected heart attack. What?! Why do you want aspirin? For a headache. I can give you some paracetamol, would you like some paracetamol? Yes, thank you, that would be great. Popped two pills and tried to doze/sleep since it was now the middle of the night in Australia!!

Steps: 4,007 (2.94 kms) That must be the walking around in the Emirates Lounge??


3rd September 2018

Or how about diverting to Diego Garcia. You were practically over it when you had to make the diversion. On the other hand the passenger would have had a difficult time finding a commercial flight off that island! I've enjoyed following you tours of castles and manors. I plan to visit some next spring, some of which were owned by ancestors.

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