United Airlines’ service between San Francisco and Taipei is no longer nonstop, with a new technical stop and crew change in Guam. United attributes the stop to “irregular operations” but the object is likely to avoid uncomfortable quarantine hotels for crewmembers.
Taiwan Takes COVID-19 Very Seriously
The Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, has fared extremely well against the pandemic. It has reported only 1,153 cases and 12 deaths since the pandemic started (the USA, which has a population roughly 15X the size of Taiwan, has reported 28,000X the times the number of cases and over 48,000X the number of deaths).
One reason it has been successful is through an extremely accurate contact tracing system that has effectively isolated those who have contracted the virus from the wider population. Airline crews have presented a unique risk, with special rules for flight crews of Taiwanese airlines.
Another reason is trust: people are trusted to act rightly by self-isolating and in most cases do. Last week, a pair of China Airlines pilots visited a bar when they were supposed to be observing self-isolation. They had flown to the United States and back and their initial COVID-19 test was negative. But five days later they started to feel bad and tested positive.
As Paddle Your Own Kanoo noted, this matter was so serious nearly all of the ~700 members of China Airlines’ operational flight crew were required to take fresh COVID-19 tests (by the way, the pilots were fined $5,000 each and may lose their jobs).
United Airlines’ Taipei Flight Now Makes Technical Stop In Guam
While there has been no public announcement yet, perhaps stricter flight crew restrictions on the part of Taiwanese authorities has prompted United to make a temporary change to its UA871/872 service between San Francisco and Taipei.
Effective immediately, United Airlines is adding a “technical stop” in Guam (GUM) between San Francisco (SFO) and Taipei (TPE). In Guam, the aircraft will be refueled and a crew change will take place.
Crews have been advised to wait onboard until their replacement crew arrives if there are passengers onboard (oddly, United has pulled this flight for sale through end of schedule).
In Taipei, crews will be escorted to a waiting room near the jet bridge, but not even enter the terminal. No pre-departure test will be necessary since the crew will not actually enter Taiwan. The crew will operate GUM-TPE-GUM.
A source tells Live and Let’s Fly that the issue is related to the hotel United uses to house crews. It was recently shut down for 14 days after a pilot tested positive. Thus far, United has not been able to source another crew hotel that meets the requirements of the Air Line Pilots Association, the union representing pilots at United Airlines. Until a suitable hotel has been found, crews will continue to make immediate turns in Taipei. Note that it will not be Guam-based crews that operate the GUM-TPE-GUM segments.
A New San Francisco – Guam Flight?
Even though UA871/872 will be stopping in Guam, this will not be marketed as a separate flight. In fact, United employees have been advised they cannot even get off in Guam unless they are part of the crew change.
This likely has something to do with U.S. immigration, but it seems a shame that United will now operate a daily SFO-GUM flight and no passenger will be able to take advantage of it.
United is adding a technical stop in Guam on its flight between San Francisco and Taipei. While United only attributes the change to “irregular operations” it seems likely linked to the latest crew scandal and the problems related to the international crew quarantine hotel in Taipei.
image: United Airlines