‘Cleaning rules’ force US airline to turn back flight midair — Analysis
Delta, the major US carrier, has new Covid-19 cleaning guidelines to blame for turning around a plane that had been halfway to Shanghai.
Delta Air Lines stopped service to Shanghai suddenly. A flight departing from Seattle was almost halfway there. Some passengers were left stranded by expired visas and Covid-19 tests.
Delta stated Monday that the recent midair reverse was caused by new cleaning rules for pandemics at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. These new directives “require significantly extended ground time and are not operationally viable for Delta,”In a statement, the airline informed the Associated Press.
Delta, the second-largest US airline, didn’t elaborate on what the rule changes were or why it was necessary to call back a flight that had already been in the air for about six hours. Through at least Thursday, Delta has pulled out of its Seattle to Shanghai flights.
According to reports, the flight had been entering Russian airspace on Tuesday and made an U-turn towards Seattle. The crew change was scheduled for Seoul, before it continued on to Shanghai. Although a Delta spokesperson stated that the rule was changed after departure from Seattle, Chinese media reports have reported that Shanghai Pudong officials deny any changes to entry requirements.
The Chinese consulate in San Francisco claimed that several US flights to China were delayed or cancelled in the past few days. It also said that it had lodged a complaint against the airline that sent back the flight at mid-air.
Taiwanese carrier EVA Air has suspended flights from Kaohsiung and Taipei to Shanghai Pudong until February 3, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). It stated that new regulations for cleaning inbound aircrafts were being implemented by the airline on Friday. CNA received word from an EVA official that new regulations could result in delayed return flights to Taiwan of as much as five hours.
China tightened its travel restrictions in order to stop the spread of Covid-19, as it prepares for hosting the Winter Olympics. They are set to start on February 4.
Shanghai Pudong, which handles most international flights from Shanghai, is one of Shanghai’s two main airports.