A Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Shanghai mysteriously turned around halfway to China, citing new aircraft regulations that Chinese authorities deny. The culprit appears to be new aircraft cleaning requirements specific to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.
Delta Flight Returns To Seattle After Traveling Halfway To Shanghai
Last Wednesday, DL287 from Seattle (SEA) to Shanghai (PVG) had already reached Russian airspace when the captain announced the flight had to return to Seattle. A passenger onboard told the South China Morning Post the captain explained:
“China’s entry policy has temporarily changed, and the health code of all persons on the flight cannot be authenticated.”
China requires all inbound passengers to receive health code, essentially authorization to enter, prior to departure.
A Delta spokesperson blamed the diversion on “new procedures required at Shanghai Pudong International Airport [that] were implemented while it was en route. The new procedures require longer time on the ground than Delta is able to schedule there.”
But an employee at Shanghai Pudong International Airport claimed there were no changes to entry requirements and noted:
“Other flights arrived normally that day, even some from the US.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco condemned Delta without naming it, issuing a statement on Weibo urging airlines to respect passenger rights and warning travelers to carefully choose their airline when traveling to China.
In what appears to be a common link, Taiwanese carriers have suspended service to Shanghai, noting new aircraft disinfection requirements. While the captain blamed China’s entry policy, the real culprit looks to be new and more onerous aircraft cleaning requirements at Pudong Airport.
Delta’s Shanghai flights have a technical stop in Seoul, South Korea, where a crew change takes place in order to avoid quarantine in China. The crew flies from Seoul (ICN) to Shanghai before returning immediately to Seoul. The new cleaning requirements threatened to make the crew unable to operate the same-day tag, rendering the service impossible.
The displaced Delta passengers are being accommodated at a hotel at Delta’s expense, but many face a long wait before they are able to return to China. Not only will that require fresh testing and travel authorization, but it also impacts work and educational commitments. Delta’s Shanghai service has been cancelled though December 30th.
Conflicting statements from the Delta captain, Delta Air Lines, and Chinese officials cast more questions than answers over the diversion of DL287. At this point, though, it appears that a new aircraft cleaning policy in Shanghai is to blame for the diversion.
image: John Murphy