Around 25 Australians were left stranded in Tokyo’s Narita Airport on Sunday night without access to “food, water or bedding” after their connecting flight to the Gold Coast was cancelled at the last minute and lingering pandemic restrictions meant they were barred from leaving the airport.
The passengers had arrived in Tokyo on a flight from Helsinki, Finland and were due to fly onto the Gold Coast aboard Jetstar flight JQ12. They arrived at around lunchtime on Sunday, but as the evening’s departure time approached, they discovered the flight had been cancelled.
It was at this point that Japan’s COVID border rules turned what should have just been a minor travel irritation into a very uncomfortable night spent trying to sleep on the floor of an airport without access to food and a single drinks machine for hydration.
Technically, Japan reopened to international tourists earlier this year but the country currently only lets foreigners enter the country if they are part of a pre-approved tour group.
Visitors must have a pre-departure PCR test, complete a written ‘pledge’, download a special smartphone app and be counted into a daily arrivals cap of 20,000 foreign visitors.
Unsurprisingly, Japan hasn’t seen a rush of international tourists this summer and plans to ease existing restrictions from September 7 by dropping pre-departure testing will still retain a daily arrivals cap – although that is likely to increase to around 50,000.
Gordan Knight was one of the Australians left stranded at Narita Airport on Sunday night.
After tweeting about his experience, Gordan told the Australian Financial Review: “I had zero sleep last night. There was no food or water. We asked for blankets and pillows, but that did not happen. The staff did not understand our situation. We were not allowed to leave the airport due to COVID rules.”
“Less than 60 percent of Jetstar flights are taking off as planned,” Gordan warned. “Jetstar is suffering terrible logistics problems and is trying to save money by providing poor service. This is the new normal for them now.”
Australia’s Smart Traveller programme notes that transit is still possible through Japan, although the government doesn’t warn that passengers could end up stranded in the airport if their travel plans go awry.
The U.S. State Department says passengers should “reconsider” plans to visit Japan due to pandemic border rules.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.