More than 20,000 fliers stranded at Tokyo airports after quake

Today’s devastating earthquake in Japan and resulting tsunami warnings are having an impact on flights across the world.

In Tokyo, more than 20,000 passengers have been stranded at two of the big airports serving the city, according to media reports.

Ben Sandilands’ Australia-based Plane Talking blog has perhaps the most thorough coverage of the effect on flights. He writes the “situation comes with consequences for hundreds of airline flights including many long haul flights still in the air and in the process of being diverted for a range of reasons including the closure of the Narita airport NE of Tokyo.”

Dow Jones Newswires writes “Tokyo’s major airports halted flights, though Haneda Airport was later reported to have reopened several runways. Narita airport also reopened late Friday, Kyodo reported, putting the total number of flights canceled so far from the quake to 711. The agency reported that 13,000 people were stranded at Narita and another 10,000 at Haneda terminals.”

Alaska’s KTUU TV reports a number of Tokyo-bound flights have diverted to Anchorage, including two operated by American and one by United.

“Hundreds of passengers crowded into the terminal at Ted Stevens International Airport and then boarded shuttle busses bound for Anchorage hotel rooms,” KTUU says.

The Wall Street Journal adds Cathay Pacific “said two of its flights to Tokyo’s Narita Airport from Hong Kong were diverted to Nagoya and Osaka on Friday, while another flight to Nagoya from Taipei was diverted to Osaka.”

Still, most international carriers warned of possible disruptions to Japan flights over the coming days.

In Hawaii, KPUA radio of Hilo reports that while Honolulu’s airport remained open, about a half-dozen flights headed there turned back following the tsunami warnings.

Hawaiian Airlines offered an update on its flights operating to trans-Pacific destinations, saying most were scheduled to land as scheduled — including a flight to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Sandilands warns that the disaster is likely to result in a “serious disruption” on flights “across the northern Pacific routes between the U.S. to Japan and beyond to China and South Korea.”

He adds “those service issues could take a day to resolve because of aircraft diversions, crew duty hours and other factors.”

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