United Airlines Flight Delay Leaves Olympic Athletes Stuck In Tokyo

* Updated 13/08/2021 07:34 UTC with a statement from United Airlines *

The US Olympic team has enjoyed a very successful stay in Tokyo, topping the medal table ahead of China and hosts Japan. However, some of the team’s athletes and staff haven’t had the best start to their journey home, after a mechanical problem postponed a United flight to Chicago for nearly a day. Let’s take a closer look at this delayed homecoming.

United Boeing 787
The aircraft involved is a Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner.’ Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The flight in question

A selection of Team USA’s athletes and staff were set to depart Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport (HND) yesterday on United Airlines flight UA882. According to data from RadarBox.com, the scheduled departure time for this service is 17:45 local time.

With a planned duration of 11 hours and 35 minutes, the Olympians were scheduled to make their triumphant homecoming at 15:20 yesterday afternoon. Their destination was Chicago’s colossal eight-runway O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

A lengthy delay

The ‘Tokyo 2020’ Olympic Games themselves couldn’t have gone better for the medal table-topping US team. However, their journey home has not panned out so successfully. According to FOX Business, the athletes have been the subject of an overnight delay.

United B787
The total delay amounted to over 22 hours. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This came about after a mechanical issue with the aircraft forced United to deplane its passengers at around 19:30 local time. This was nearly two hours after the flight’s scheduled departure time. Late in the evening, United decided it was best to accommodate the passengers overnight and try again today. A spokesperson told Simple Flying that:

“United flight 882 from Tokyo-Haneda to Chicago was delayed while our team addressed a mechanical issue. While in Tokyo, we provided hotel rooms for our customers and worked to get them on their way as soon as possible.”

New York Times reporter Doug Mills explained on Twitter that the flight would depart Tokyo today at 12:00 local time, 18 hours late. However, RadarBox data shows that it didn’t do so until 16:09 local time, more than 22 hours later than planned. Currently over the Pacific, arrival in Chicago is set to be 22 hours late at 13:22, according to FlightRadar24.com.

UA882 Map
At the time of writing, UA882 was just under halfway across the Pacific Ocean. Image: RadarBox.com

The aircraft involved

The aircraft that was the subject of this marathon delay was a Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner.’ According to data from ch-aviation.com, this aircraft, which bears the registration N24979, is one of 38 787-9s in United’s fleet. United received it in April 2020.

United has fitted this aircraft with a 257-seat configuration. The bulk of these are the plane’s 149 economy seats. However, it also features 39 extra-legroom economy plus spaces, with 21 premium economy recliners in front of these. However, the gold medal in terms of seats on this aircraft goes, of course, to the 48-suite ‘Polaris’ business class cabin.

What do you make of this incident? Have you ever had such a long delay? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.