How 300 evacuees from a quarantined cruise ship were airlifted to the U.S.
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
If you are an American tourist who has spent two weeks quarantined aboard a cruise ship off Japan because of the risk of contagion from the COVID-19 virus, aka the coronavirus, you are probably anxious to return to the U.S. — but being herded onto a cargo plane, with people who may have the virus, may not be your preferred means of doing so.
Well, that’s what happened to more than 300 Americans who left Japan on Sunday aboard two chartered Boeing 747 freighters, and who now have to endure 14 more days of quarantine at military bases in the U.S..
When they left the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, to be transported to Tokyo Haneda airport in a convoy of buses, they likely assumed the worst was behind them. Unfortunately, according to a report by CNN, which spoke with some of them, what awaited them was another ordeal.
Waiting for them at Haneda were two Boeing 747-400 freighters chartered by the U.S. government from Kalitta Air, a cargo operator that’s flown evacuation missions before.
Hundreds of people aboard the ship had tested positive for coronavirus, and so had 14 of the evacuees aboard the 747s. According to CNN, U.S. officials learned of those 14 cases only as people disembarked from the buses at the Haneda airport. Those 14 people were isolated onboard the planes, but it’s unclear with what degree of effectiveness. The New York Times said the barrier between passengers who had tested positive and everybody else was just plastic sheeting.
The flights on the 747 freighters were no picnic, some passengers told CNN. Evacuees were onboard the cargo plane for 10 hours on the first leg from Tokyo to Anchorage, where the planes refueled before continuing to their final destinations in California and Texas. The 747s were outfitted with temporary seats and makeshift bathrooms. A health official told passengers to “bring extra layers” as the converted cargo 747s have less insulation than typical passenger jets. The planes don’t have windows, either.
Adding to the ordeal, people onboard the planes said they felt that the evacuation was a mess. The plan was initially for Americans who had tested positive for coronavirus to remain in Japan. 61 Americans who tested positive aboard the Diamond Princess remain on board as of this writing, in fact.
As for why cargo jets were chosen over regular airliners for the evacuations, one major reason could be the relative ease of sanitizing a cargo jet, plus a peculiarity of the 747 which makes it ideally suited for evacuating potentially contagious people. Its upper deck, where the cockpit is, can be closed off from the passengers on the main deck, so the flight crew need not come into contact with possibly contagious people.
Featured image: a Kalitta Air 747-400 freighter evacuating people from Japan at the Haneda airport in Tokyo on February 16 (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.