SIA passengers stuck in Sapporo over the weekend due to snow now back in Singapore

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane parked on the tarmac at Changi Airport Terminal 3.
A Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane parked on the tarmac at Changi Airport Terminal 3.PHOTO: ST FILE

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 Monday morning (Dec 12).

Heavy snow in Hokkaido closed airport runways over the weekend and forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, affecting 192 SIA passengers.

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

A spokesman for SIA 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 renumbered 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 Dec 11 and arrived in Singapore at 1.02am on Monday.

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

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