Japan Airline's domestic flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka had to take a U-turn after a seven-hour ordeal. The Japanese domestic flight that had more than 300 passengers narrowly missed a curfew before being sent on a roundabout route back to its starting point.
The Japan Airlines Co. flight JL331 had been due to leave Tokyo's Haneda Airport for the two-hour hop to Fukuoka at 6:30 pm local time Sunday. However, takeoff was delayed for 90 minutes after a last-minute plane switch, and as the flight approached Fukuoka, it became clear it would just miss the airport's 10 pm cutoff time for commercial planes - despite earlier expectations that it would land with 4 minutes to spare, the airline said in a statement.
Strong winds at Haneda in the morning had led to delays in other flights bound for the city. While other late-running planes were allowed to land after the curfew, JL331 was denied permission. Fukuoka Airport officials told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that they didn't regard its delay as "unavoidable" due to factors such as bad weather or congestion that would have allowed for an exception to be made.
Thus began the long journey back to Tokyo. An initial plan to re-route the flight to the nearby city of Kitakyushu was abandoned because no buses were available to handle the 335 passengers, JAL said. Rather, pilots were redirected about 280 miles (450 kilometers) from their original destination to Kansai International Airport near Osaka, landing at 10:59 p.m.
However, there weren't enough buses or hotel accommodation available there to handle the number of passengers and the plane again took to the skies in the early hours of Monday morning, landing back in Japan's capital almost seven hours after it took off.
They weren't the only travelers to endure a flight to nowhere recently. Last week, an Air New Zealand Ltd. flight from Auckland to New York was forced to return home around halfway into its nearly 9,000-mile journey after a power outage at John F. Kennedy International Airport threw operations into disarray. The plane landed back in Auckland about 16 hours after it took off.
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