A group of Australians have been stranded in a Tokyo airport overnight “without food or water”, unable to leave due to Japan’s strict COVID controls, after Jetstar canceled their connecting flight from Finland to Australia.
- Gordon Knight was flying with at least 20 other passengers from Helsinki to the Gold Coast, with a stopover at Narita
- When he arrived at the departure gate for his flight on Sunday night, there was no flight details and no staff to assist
- An email arrived soon after informing passengers the flight was canceled
Gordon Knight was flying with his partner from Helsinki to the Gold Coast, with a stopover at Narita International Airport.
But when he and at least 20 other passengers arrived at the departure gate for his flight on Sunday night, there was no flight details and no staff to assist, he said.
An email arrived soon after informing passengers the flight was cancelled, forcing them to hunker down in a cordoned off section of the mostly shutdown airport terminal.
“We were left to fend for ourselves,” said Mr Knight.
“[Jetstar] didn’t have bottles of water for us, didn’t have any food for us, all of the shops were closed, and we were forced to sleep without a pillow or a blanket.”
Australians can ordinarily enter Japan without a visa, but the border has been shut during the pandemic and only opened in recent months to foreigners with a visa and a negative COVID test.
This meant the passengers were barred from leaving the airport.
But Jetstar were not aware of this, and passengers were told to find a “place” to stay for the night, Mr Knight said.
“They were entirely unaware of the COVID situation,” he said.
“We pointed out to them that we couldn’t do that.
“It wasn’t until about midnight that one of the staffers finally came back to us and said that they’d been unable to find any of these items.
“Jetstar had not prepared for something that they should have known was going to be inevitable.”
Mr Knight said the situation was particularly concerning as his partner had recently had surgery.
“She wasn’t really able to protect that leg,” he said.
Airline cites engineering issues
Jetstar, which is owned by Qantas, said the plane was canceled due to an engineering issue identified prior to departure.
The flight is expected to leave Monday evening.
“We sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience caused,” a statement from Jetstar said.
“We are working with Narita airport to determine how we can better accommodate transiting passengers during disruptions like this one.”
It comes after months of canceled and delayed flights created havoc across the globe as travel restrictions eased.
Figures compiled by the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics revealed only 63 per cent of Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Rex Airlines flights arrived on time in June while just 61.9 per cent departed when scheduled.
It said 5.8 per cent of flights were canceled, meaning June of this year had the worst on time performance figures since the data started being recorded in November 2003.
Earlier this month, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce apologized to customers after months of flight cancellations, delays and luggage mishandling.
“There are good reasons why, but when it comes to what you expect from Qantas, it’s not good enough,” Mr Joyce said.
“On behalf of the national carrier, I want to apologise and assure you that we’re working hard to get back to our best.”
Mr Knight said he understood the airlines had been battered by the pandemic, but the situation was foreseeable, he said.
“They really need to up their game,” he said.
“We had no help on their Facebook page, we had no help on their hotline, no-one answered their phone, and management didn’t turn up.
“We had three flight attendants trying to look after a plane load of people who didn’t know where to go or what to do.”
Tourists can enter Japan if they are part of a supervised tour group.
The government announced incoming arrivals will no longer need a negative PCR test from September 7, but no dates have been confirmed when independent travelers might be able to enter Japan.