United Crew Refuses To Fly With 135 Cruise Passengers

135 Australian residents trying to get to Sydney from San Francisco were turned away on Friday. The travelers had recently been on a cruise trip and were trying to get home. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United Airlines staff members were not comfortable performing this operation. Therefore, the carrier had to find a suitable alternative.

United 787
A United flight remained on the ground earlier this weekend amid coronavirus fears. Photo: United Airlines

Across the seas

Cruisers were expecting their 14-day journey on Holland America’s Zaandam ship in Chile to end on March 21st. However, they were turned away from the South American country and have been at sea ever since. Four of those on the ship died with the virus and 250 others had symptoms that resembled the flu.

Subsequently, Holland America reached a deal with Florida authorities to dock the Zaandam and its sister ship Rotterdam (which had set sail to rescue those on the Zaandam) at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.

Thereafter, those who were not showing symptoms were allowed to take charter flights home from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris, Frankfurt, and London.

135 of these passengers were due to head to New South Wales from California. However, View From The Wing reports that the flight did not happen due to safety fears. Late into the night, the travelers were put into local hotels while United attempted to sort out the situation.

United 787-9 Dreamliner
The flight was due to be performed on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images

Awkward situation

Altogether, the carrier and its staff were facing a tough challenge. Even though the passengers did not show symptoms, people have been advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not to go on cruises during this volatile time.

The damage had already been done, but with the cruise customers arriving fresh off the boat, it is hard to trust that they won’t be a risk to those around them while in transit. Ultimately, government-enforced procedures such as a 14-day quarantine after disembarking in Fort Lauderdale should have been placed.

Willing to help

Nonetheless, United eventually managed to form a solution to the problem. USA Today reports that the airline will operate a special charter flight from San Francisco to Sydney today.

United Airlines Fleet
United is still providing transport for the affected travelers. Photo: Getty Images

A representative from the operator explained that the service is being put into place as a way to balance the need of both its employees and passengers.

“Although these passengers were cleared by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our crew and customers, we scheduled a special charter flight for only those passengers to depart,” United said, as reported by USA Today.

“These are extraordinary times and while we take enormous pride in our commitment to safety, we also take pride in our ability to connect the world.”

United also shared that it is committed to providing these Australian citizens a safe and much-needed way to get home after a long time at sea. Moreover, it is eager to do its part to help during the global crisis.

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United’s customer service team have been extra busy in the last few months. Photo: Getty Images

Tough period

Simple Flying reached out to United for further comment on what happened in San Francisco. A spokesperson for the airline shared that it was a better decision was to combine the two sets of cruise ship customers on one charter flight for Sunday. It also doesn’t have any other passengers.

Furthermore, the fliers will receive additional screening. This will include being checked individually by a doctor to confirm they are fit for travel.

Even though United was faced with an awkward task, it still managed to find a way to get these passengers home.

Altogether, it is a tough season to be traveling due to global restrictions and the spread of the virus. Like several airlines, United has been feeling the impact of the outbreak and is doing its best to help during this hard time.

What are your thoughts on what happened with the travelers trying to get to Sydney? Were you one of the passengers set to board the flight? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.