Japan Airlines short-haul flight turns into 16-hour ordeal.
Passengers on a short-haul domestic flight in Japan were flown back to their departure city after an airport barred their plane from landing because it missed curfew by 10 minutes.
Japan Airlines flight JL331 had been due to leave Tokyo’s Haneda Airport for the two-hour hop to Fukuoka at 6:30 p.m. local time Sunday.
After the flight was delayed for 90 minutes due to a last-minute plane switch, the aircraft got into the air and made its way.
However, as the plane approached Fukuoka it became clear it would just miss the airport’s 10 p.m. cut-off time for commercial flights.
With landing at Fukuoka no longer an option, flight JL331 had to circle until it found another airport that would receive it.
The plane reportedly began heading to an airport in Kitakyushu, a city close to Fukuoka, before the captain was told not to land because buses could not be organised to ferry the 335 passengers to a hotel.
Eventually a decision was made to return the passengers to Tokyo, however, the aircraft did not have enough fuel to make the trip so it landed in Osaka.
To add insult to injury, passengers could not disembark when the plane diverted to Osaka’s Kansai Airport to refuel, because hotels could not be organised.
The plane eventually landed back in Tokyo at 2.50am where the 335 passengers were provided with hotel accommodation and directed to wait for a morning flight.
Passengers shared their experience on social media, saying their planned two-hour flight had turned into 16-hour saga.
However, one passengers seemed fine with the situation, happily claiming he received 20,000 yen ($150) cash as compensation. “I’m just glad it wasn’t a plane crash,” he wrote.
In a statement, Japan Airlines said: “We apologise for the inconvenience and burden caused by not being able to take passengers to Fukuoka as scheduled and the long flight time.”
Fukuoka Airport, has a flight ban policy between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. because of nearby residential neighbourhoods.
Officials said they had allowed planes to land after the airport shutdown time if the delay is unavoidable. Such events include bad weather or runway congestion, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. Because flight JL331 underwent an equipment change, officials did not regard the flight’s delay as unavoidable, the newspaper said.
Flight data showed that other flights were allowed to land past the cut-off time that evening. Flight JL331 was the only one rejected, Bloomberg reported.