Fewer Flights And International Border Restrictions Put Travelers In Limbo When Things Go Wrong

United Airlines flight UA79 was delayed three hours on Sunday due to a crew scheduling issue. Flight delays happen all the time, and a three hour delay of an international flight isn’t usually devastating during normal times.

However with limited air service, as a result of depressed demand during the pandemic, and international border restrictions a small delay can turn much more challenging for travelers – especially those trying to connect between secondary cities.

According to Chinese state media, that United Airlines flight had 120 Chinese citizens on board, intending to connect in Tokyo to Fuzhou and to Hangzhou.

  • The three hour delay meant they’d misconnect in Tokyo

  • Current border restrictions mean fewer flights, they cannot just ‘get on the next one’

  • And since they’re ineligible to enter Japan, they could be returned to the United States (the country of origin)

As a result of United’s flight delay, United refused to board the passengers. And that, too, is a problem:

Many of them flew to Newark from other parts of the United States after returning their apartments, and some visas are close to expiration, the passengers said, adding some people had spent months in obtaining air tickets, and now it is nearly impossible to buy new tickets in a short time.

United, at fault for the delay, is responsible for re-routing the customers – ideally onto their Shanghai flight they’re operating via Seoul. However getting space for 120 people on United’s twice-weekly flight 857 can be challenging – as is funneling passengers through Frankfurt on United’s joint venture partner Lufthansa.

Irregular operations present a greater challenge than ever before to international travel, adding to the long list of hurdles travelers face in returning to the skies.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Get used to a world of mis-connects.

    As Amtrak intends to cut its 15 long distance routes 1 October from daily to 3 x week, imagine the impact on travelers if they miss their connection and have to wait days for the next scheduled train; or, if their scheduled arrival is not convenient to the scheduled departure (e.g., arrive Sunday A.M.; departure not until Monday P.M.).

    Instead of forcing Amtrak to think and act like an entrepreneurial, for profit-oriented business entity, recognize it cannot be expected to be what it has clearly evidenced it cannot be. Operational control must be ceded to competent private operators who would operate in the public interest.

    Imagine a world where their is only one airline in the USA, directed with the heavy hand of federal bureaucrats; not benefiting from a Board due to their positions given away as political payback…?

  2. “A crew scheduling issue” when half are furloughed? Sounds more like incompetence or a labor grievance.
    Sort of like no city bus today because we forgot to tell the driver there would be bus service today.

  3. “A crew scheduling issue” when half are furloughed? Sounds more like incompetence or a labor grievance.
    Sort of like no city bus today because we forgot to tell the driver there would be bus service today.

  4. A crew scheduling issue on a long-haul international flight? What kind of issue might that be? Clearly this was not a case of a crew arriving late because they had been working an incoming flight that was delayed. That only happens on short-haul domestic. For long-haul, the crews usually arrive from their homes or hotels several hours before the flight.

  5. Until international travel and borders between countries are back and open to at least 75% capacity pre-Covid19, such major travel failures will take place. Airlines cannot expect to ‘have their cake and eat it too’ with major furloughs, slashed number of flights and ever changing rules by countries regarding who can and cannot travel. Either completely cancel a specific international route or be prepared to accommodate travelers to the fullest. Yes, very tough circumstances all around for all parties involved (passengers, airlines, governments, airports, travel industry). Even if and when a reliable and effective vaccine becomes available, long haul travel will take a while to fully recover. Possibly years. It is all about outlook and psychology. Do I feel comfortable taking a 14-hour flight for leisure? Very few at the moment will say yes to that.

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