An American Eagle jet that was scheduled to land at Gainesville Regional Airport Sunday night was unexpectedly diverted to the Jacksonville International Airport.
Both the airline and the airport are still not sure exactly why this happened but passengers of the diverted flight are demanding an explanation.
“I was worried. The people on the plan were worried” said Cynthia Barnett, a passenger on the diverted flight. “[We were wondering] did someone have a heart attack or was there something going on in Gainesville. So that was a worrisome message to hear from the pilot.”
Officials from both Gainesville Regional Airport and American Airlines are investigating the diversion that happened Sunday night just before 11 p.m.
The jet was originally scheduled to arrive at Gainesville regional at 10:44 p.m. but could not get in contact with Gainesville’s tower for permission to land.
After circling Gainesville and awaiting response from the Gainesville tower, the pilot contacted Jacksonville International Airport and decided to land in Jacksonville shortly after.
Laura Aguiar, spokesperson for Gainesville Regional, said the pilot should have known that Gainesville’s tower communications get turned over to Jacksonville after Gainesville closes at 10:30. Plus, she said Jacksonville tower operators should have given the pilot the OK to land in Gainesville.
“The regularly scheduled flight was coming in as it normally does,” Aguiar said, “and operations were proceeding as normal and the pilots made the decision to divert. But they had access to all the information and equipment they normally would.”
According to Gainesville Regional, the Jacksonville tower takes control of Gainesville at 10:30 pm and no one knows yet why the pilot wasn’t aware of that. Aguiar says the airport has received a lot of comments via email and phone calls and that’s how the airport learned about the situation Monday morning.
“Some of it was miscommunication,” Aguiar said. “We were kind of upset to learn that crews were not forth-coming with information about why they were diverted to Jacksonville and so we are trying to figure out what exactly happened ourselves.”
The worried passengers of the diverted flight were given hotel vouchers in Jacksonville and a flight back to Gainesville Monday morning. Officials with Gainesville regional said this has never happened before and they are doing what they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Editors Note: We misspelled Laura Aguiar’s name. It has been corrected.