Singapore

Stranded SIA passengers back in Singapore

Nearly 200 Singapore Airlines (SIA) passengers who were stuck in northern Japan over the weekend due to heavy snow finally returned to Singapore early yesterday morning.

Heavy snow in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido closed runways over the weekend and forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, affecting 186 SIA passengers.

Some of these passengers had to spend Saturday night sleeping on the airport floor, as surrounding hotels were fully booked.

An SIA spokesman said that flight SQ661 was supposed to depart Sapporo's Chitose Airport at 7.55am Singapore time on Friday.

But as the runways were closed, the flight was re-numbered to SQ9661 and rescheduled to depart at 7.55am on Saturday.

"However, SQ9661 was then further delayed as the runways at Chitose Airport remained closed due to heavy snow," said the SIA spokesman.

Ground staff assessed the possibility of flying those affected back to Singapore via Hong Kong or Taipei, "but the flight crew would have exceeded their flight time limitations", he added.

Due to a shortage of available hotel rooms, some passengers slept in the airport. SIA issued them blankets, meals and breakfast vouchers.

The passengers finally left Sapporo on SQ9661 at 4.53pm on Sunday and arrived in Singapore at 1.02am yesterday morning.

CANCELLATIONS

Bloomberg reported that ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines, the nation's largest carriers, cancelled 185 domestic flights as the weather agency issued heavy snow warnings for parts of Hokkaido on Saturday.

ANA cancelled 83 flights affecting about 10,000 passengers, while Japan Airlines cut 102 flights affecting some 10,490 passengers.

Japan issued heavy snow warnings on Saturday for areas of Hokkaido, including Sapporo city, in addition to avalanche advisories for some regions. - THE STRAITS TIMES ONLINE

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