Key Points:

  • A Cebu Pacific flight from Manila, originally bound for Fukuoka, missed its landing time and had to divert to Kitakyushu Airport before finally returning to Manila.

  • Due to missing Fukuoka Airport's 10 p.m. curfew and the inability to complete customs procedures at Kitakyushu, passengers were stranded onboard for approximately 11 hours.

  • A knowledgeable aviation expert highlights the rarity of international flights returning to origin and underscores the need for improved handling in emergency situations.

Flight Misses Fukuoka Landing Twice, Diverts to Kitakyushu Airport

FUKUOKA —A Cebu Pacific flight originating from Manila encountered an unexpected round trip back to the Philippines on Sept. 4. Initially set for the city of Fukuoka, the plane had to divert its course to Kitakyushu Airport located about 60 kilometers from its intended destination. This deviation was prompted by the aircraft missing Fukuoka Airport's 10 p.m. curfew. Consequently, passengers remained onboard for a protracted 11 hours.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Fukuoka Airport office shed light on the situation, revealing that the plane, carrying 125 passengers, took off from Manila at roughly 4:25 p.m. At about 8 p.m., the aircraft's landing was delayed and ordered to retry. Due to Fukuoka Airport's congested airspace and the looming possibility of the plane depleting its fuel reserve during the wait, it was rerouted to Kitakyushu Airport, touching ground there at around 8:36 p.m.

However, procedural obstacles at Kitakyushu barred passengers from disembarking, and the plane, after refueling, had to leave around 12:16 a.m. on Sept. 5, landing in Manila by 3:19 a.m.

Fukuoka Airport's specific operating hours, set between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., are a consequence of its close vicinity to residential zones, necessitating noise mitigation measures.

In response to the incident, a representative from Cebu Pacific's PR team in Japan mentioned, "We're checking the facts."

Professor Takenori Watanabe, a member of Sojo University's Faculty of Engineering with significant expertise in aviation policy, remarked on the rarity of such events. He emphasized that passengers can't deplane at an alternative airport without adequate arrangements. Watanabe urged the aviation industry, considering the increasing number of travelers to Japan, to ensure efficient responses in crises by bolstering coordination between airlines, especially in ground operations.