On 29 February, Asiana Airlines flight OZ729 was banned from landing at its destination in Hanoi. However, news of the restriction only came 20 minutes after the aircraft had taken off from Seoul Incheon International Airport. This forced the aircraft to turn around and return to its origin. There has been no official reason given but it is more than likely the decision was made because of the coronavirus outbreak.
20 minutes into the flight
Flight OZ729 departed Seoul Incheon international airport on schedule at 10:10 on Saturday, destined for Hanoi, Vietnam. However, at 10:30, Asiana and its crew were notified that Vietnamese authorities had barred the flight from landing at its destination.
According to Forbes, Vietnamese authorities provided the flight crew the option of diverting to Van Don international airport in Quảng Ninh Province. However, the decision was made by Asiana to cancel the flight instead. The Airbus A330 returned to Incheon airport two hours after it initially took off.
Forbes also reports that the Asiana flight had only 40 passengers onboard the A330-300, which has the ability to accommodate 275-298.
“While Vietnam has not provided us with a clear reason, we believe it is connected with the spread of the new coronavirus,” -Asiana spokesperson via Yonhap
Increasing travel restrictions for South Koreans
South Koreans have faced increasing travel restrictions and bans from countries around the world. This has forced airlines to suspend service to the country while Korean Air has recently published its list of flight suspensions.
Vietnamese carriers, Vietnam Airlines and VietJet had their Seoul-Hanoi flights land in Hanoi as planned. However, many other South Korea-Vietnam flights are now canceled. In the case of Asiana – the flight cancelations display clearly as shown below:
Outside of China, South Korea has the highest number of confirmed cases. On Tuesday, Vietnam officially banned the entry of South Koreans who had been in the city of Daegu and nearby county of Cheongdo, where the country’s coronavirus outbreak is more prevalent.
It’s a shame that the decision was made only after take-off from Seoul Incheon airport. However, the situation could have been worse and the flight could have had the same fate as Korean Air’s KE958 on 22 February. In this case, passengers completed the nine and a half hour flight from Seoul to Tel Aviv, Israel. Upon landing, passengers learned that only Israeli nationals would be allowed off the aircraft and into the country. The remainder would return to South Korea.
If your plans to, from, or through South Korea have been affected by the situation, share your experience with us in the comments!
Simple Flying made attempts to contact Asiana Airlines for additional information. However, no response has been received at the time of publishing this article. We’ll update this post if any new information is received.