Flight Arrives 10 Minutes Late, Is Forced Into 16-Hour Detour

Japan Airlines Flight JL331 from Tokyo to Fukuoka should've taken just 2 hours
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2023 1:29 PM CST
Flight Arrives 10 Minutes Late, Is Forced Into 16-Hour Detour
A Japan Airlines plane taxis at Tokyo Haneda International Airport in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

The 550-mile trip across Japan should have taken two hours by plane. It ultimately took 16—all because a Japan Airlines flight missed an airport's cutoff time by a mere 10 minutes and was forced to turn back. The nightmarish scenario began Sunday with weather delays in Tokyo, followed by a change in planes at the last minute, the Independent reports. As a result, flight JL331, which should have departed at 6:30pm local time, took off about 90 minutes late, nearing the time it was initially scheduled to land in Fukuoka. The ride went smoothly enough—until the plane tried to touch down.

Due to noise concerns, Fukuoka Airport doesn't allow planes to land after 10pm unless written permission is granted in advance, and JL331, arriving at 10:10pm, did not have such permission. Exceptions can be made in "unavoidable" cases of bad weather or airport congestion, according to Asahi Shimbun, but airport officials found JL331's delay was not unavoidable and forced the plane to make a U-turn. As an added frustration, two other Japan Airlines flights that arrived at 10:13pm and 10:16pm were allowed to land because they did have prior written permission. According to the airline, JL331 didn't request special permission as it had been expected to arrive four minutes before the cutoff time, per NDTV.

Running low on fuel, the plane couldn't reach Tokyo and made a stop in Osaka, basically a halfway point in the journey, to refuel. It arrived around 11pm but then had to undergo maintenance work, per Asahi Shimbun. As Osaka didn’t have enough buses and hotel rooms to accommodate the 335 passengers, they had to wait for the plane to take to the skies again. It took off around 1:45am, finally reaching Tokyo at 2:50am. Passengers then headed to a hotel (with expenses paid) before another shot at their destination the following day. Luckily, that trip went off without a hitch, putting travelers in Fukuoka 16 hours after they'd set out. One passenger took it all in stride: "I'm just glad it wasn't a plane crash," he tweeted, per NDTV. (More Japan Airlines stories.)

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