What was supposed to be the first leg of a dream vacation for many turned into an absolute nightmare for several passengers aboard an United Airlines flight that took off from San Francisco, California, bound for Sydney, Australia. According to NBC News, the United Airlines Flight UA863, which took off from SFO at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the trip that usually takes 15 hours, actually took over 30 hours to end.
On Wednesday, things did not go on as planned for all the 251 passengers on board the United Airlines flight. According to ABC News, due to the presence of some debris on the runway at Sydney, the plane was asked to land at the airport in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, located around 180 miles south of Sydney. While this was a normal delay, things started going downhill from this point. The jet lagged, weary passengers who had hoped for some respite from the claustrophobic interiors of the aircraft were told that they would not be allowed into the airport terminal because of immigration and customs issues. The Canberra airport apparently did not have the facility to complete customs and immigration formalities.
Due to this, the passengers found themselves sitting inside the aircraft with nothing else to do. To top things off, the pilot that brought the plane to Canberra was told that he cannot fly the plane back to Sydney as he had exceeded his flying hour limit. This meant a replacement pilot would have to be found. The result? The passengers sat inside the plane for nearly four hours. After that, they were allowed to move out of the aircraft, on to the tarmac, where they were provided with food and water. It took a total of seven hours for United Airlines to get a replacement pilot that could bring the aircraft to Sydney. When the flight finally reached Sydney, it was more than 30 hours since they had taken off. The flight was a whopping nine hours behind schedule.
People on board the United Airlines flight took to social media to let the world know about their plight. Here are a few tweets that were shared by a few of them.
— ABC News Canberra (@abcnewsCanberra) December 12, 2014
— Emma Sward (@emsluxe) December 11, 2014
— Gustav Toppenberg (@gtoppenberg) December 12, 2014
Fabio Calabria, 27, who was traveling home to see family for Christmas, described the delay as “frustrating.”
“We sat on the plane for around three and a half hours. Then we were allowed off the plane and got to stretch our legs on the tarmac,” said Fabio Calabria, 27, who was travelling to visit family for Christmas.
According to United Airlines, the flight landed at Sydney at around 5:45 p.m. local time on Friday. The company spokesperson defended their actions as all circumstances were beyond the control of the company.
Karen May, a spokesperson for United Airlines, said the following.
“It’s an unusual one, and it wasn’t anything that United did wrong at all. It was a result of what was going on at the runway in Sydney.”
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]