A British Airways Boeing 777-300 took off from London Heathrow Airport on Friday evening and didn’t arrive in Manila until Sunday afternoon, completing a 36-hour journey that included three aborted landings, a diversion, and a night sleeping on the plane on the ground in Manila because pandemic rules prevented anyone from boarding.
British Airways flight BA31 took off at 7:40 p.m. on September 8th for what was supposed to be a routine 11-hour journey to Hong Kong. However, a tropical storm that slammed the Hong Kong region on Saturday had different plans, battering the city with rain and high gusts and causing numerous planes to detour.
The pilots of the 7-year-old Boeing 777 attempted to land but chose to abort after about 1,500 feet and circled for a second try, which they also had to abort.
After two failed landings, the pilots chose to divert to Manila Aquino International Airport in the Philippines, where they landed successfully an hour and a half later.
However, due to local pandemic guidelines and severe quarantine limitations in Hong Kong, none of the passengers or crew were allowed to leave the plane while the tropical storm passed.
Instead, they were forced to spend the entire night on the plane sleeping before attempting to land in Hong Kong on Sunday morning.
The flight didn’t leave Manila until 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, and despite an uneventful journey, the drama was far from done. With only a few feet to spare before touchdown, the pilots chose to abort the landing and execute another go-around before finally touching down in Hong Kong on the fourth attempt.
To make matters worse, passengers and personnel were then made to wait for many hours in Hong Kong airport while their COVID-19 test results were processed.
Passengers were allegedly ‘harassed’ by Hong Kong’s Department of Health personnel for failing to extend their hotel quarantine bookings while in Manila.
British Airways denied that the pilots and cabin crew had exceeded the maximum working restrictions imposed by aviation regulators, claiming that all necessary rest was taken onboard the aircraft.
One of the passengers on board the flight said the crew had been “fantastic”. In a statement, a spokesperson for BA said:
“Like other airlines, our flight diverted to Manila due to tropical storm Lionrock preventing a safe landing in Hong Kong. Our customers were cared for onboard the aircraft. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”