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.