My Sister’s United Airlines Flight Flew Over Mexico

We have had some crazy weather in Texas in the first quarter of 2021. The biggest, in terms of impact, was the snow storm in February that crippled the state of Texas for the better part of a month. I was without power for four days then water, overlapping the power outage by a day, for four days. I was fortunate enough to make it through the situation with only an increased disdain for elected officials. Many other people were not as fortunate. Fast forward to mid-March as we prepared for another significant weather event.

The National Weather Service called for golf ball sized hail and tornadoes throughout the “Big Country” area. The Big Country includes Abilene and a 19 county area in West Texas. I do not have an issue with rain and lightning because we seemed to have storms daily when I was growing up in Mississippi. The sound of both are actually quite soothing. This storm was different than the normal rain, lightning, and thunder. It was scheduled to roll through town on a Saturday, the same day my sister was due to fly from Houston to Abilene on United Airlines.

I was worried the entire day because United Airlines only operates two daily flights between Abilene Regional and Houston Intercontinental Airports and this was the last one for the day. My sister wanted the later flight because there were some things she needed to accomplish in Houston prior to visiting for a week. I tried my hardest to convince her to take the earlier flight or run the chance of being delayed if she did not listen to her much smarter brother. Like always, she did not listen to me.

The flight, UA5084, is scheduled for ~90 minutes gate to gate. It was originally scheduled for an 8:05pm departure. The flight was pushed every 30 minutes because of the storm. At 9:06 CST, the flight began boarding. I was still unsure the Canadair Regional Jet would depart Houston because the rain was falling sideways in Abilene.  I use FlightRadar24 for flight following. It does not matter if it is me, family, friends, or a random airliner in the sky, I enjoy the FlightRadar24 application.

The aircraft was supposed to take a northwest track to Abilene. I followed the flight to departure and returned to watching Battlefish on Netflix. After 30 minutes, the flight should have been getting close to Abilene so I opened the app to find the following. 

Not only was the flight not going in a northwesterdly direction, the plane was headed towards the southwest near San Antonio. As you can see in the picture, this track was used by all of the aircraft in the area. The routing baffled me as the flight continued towards the Mexican border. 

The flight would eventually enter into Mexico near Del Rio, Texas. I understand being routed to avoid weather, but to end up in another country, was beyond me. It seems like such a waste of time and money. The flight could have been in Abilene, if this were normal routing.   

The flight finally made a turn to the north-northeast towards Abilene. This was a such a relief.

The aircraft was routed a to a northern landing on runway 17R, to add a a few more miles onto the already long flight.

My sister and the rest of the weary passengers made it to Abilene, nearly two and a half hours after departure. I sent here the picture of their routing once she sent the “just landed” text and she could not believe they have flown to Mexico. This was due in part to United Airlines not having inflight entertainment throughout their aircrafts, but mostly to her being asleep for the entire flight! The mere thought of sleeping during the flight, coupled with going Mexico and not knowing it, made my anxiety act up.

Final Word

I was happy the flight made it to Abilene safely, albeit with a very peculiar routing. If I had the opportunity, I would ask United Airlines the following questions:

  1. What went into the decision to takeoff from Houston, especially with the routing?
  2. Is the flight to Abilene worth it financially?

The regional flights I take are usually uneventful so I was kind of jealous my sister and her fellow passengers went to Mexico, even if they did not land. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if there was a problem inflight. Free vacation? The world will never know. All jokes aside, thanks to United Airlines for getting my sister to Abilene because I needed her more than I knew after my back procedure.  

Have you ever experienced a crazy weather routing?

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