OAKLAND, Calif, (KTVU) - A Lufthansa flight from Germany circled San Francisco International Airport for 30 minutes before landing at Oakland International Airport to refuel.
Fog density diverted the Airbus A380 -- the world's largest passenger aircraft -- and prompted the circling. Landing for fuel is routine when airports have a weather program in place. Flight 454 was scheduled to arrive at SFO at 1:00 p.m. and ended up touching down in Oakland about 1:38 p.m. Passengers remained aboard as it sat on the tarmac for just under two hours.
"Ground handling operations for diverted flights are predetermined by each airline in a diversion, and it is entirely the airline’s decision to determine whether passengers will offload or remain on the aircraft," said Keonnis Taylor, airport spokeswoman, who added that it's common to have passengers remain on the plane while awaiting clearance to head back out.
At SFO, there was some confusion and concern for people waiting to pick up passengers at the international terminal. Anxious faces eyed the arrival screens. People checked for updates on mobile phones, trying to find out what happened and why passengers weren't coming through the doors long after the scheduled time.
"When you're sitting here waiting for someone and the screens aren't accurate and the websites aren't accurate you just have to sit here and stare at that exit for four hours you know," said Aruna Mani of San Francisco, who was waiting for her mother-in-law.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m. the plane departed from Oakland and landed in San Francisco less than 15 minutes later. It was the end of a long journey for many who'd started early Friday morning in Germany, Greece, Tunisia, Italy and other countries.
One four-year-old boy named Ze came with his father from Portugal. His father, Joao DeMacedo, is a surfer, who flew in for the Mavericks competition. He was just glad he, his son, and his surfboard arrived safely.
"In the grand scheme of things it wasn't an accident, it wasn't something terrifying like that so it's great when it's all said and done," said DeMarco.
This giant @lufthansa @Airbus A380 headed from Frankfurt to @flySFO had to divert to @IFlyOAKland due to fog. Check out @flightaware map to see how it had to circle the bay before it landed. Plans underway for quick hop across the bay pic.twitter.com/X5C72yIlcS— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) January 12, 2018
An earlier version of this story misstated that Oakland International Airport is not equipped to unload passengers aboard an aircraft as large as the A380.