The continuing nuclear threat from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan has led to a travel nightmare, as many try to flee the area to avoid radiation exposure.
The plant was badly damaged last Friday when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the main island of Honshu. Narita and Haneda Airports are overwhelmed with tourists scrambling to book flights out of the country.
Airlines have issued the following updates to their schedules:
Deutsche Lufthansa is diverting flights away from Tokyo to Osaka and Nagoya until the weekend
Taiwan's EVA Airways is cancelling flights to Tokyo and Sapporo until the end of March
United Continental has cancelled flights to Sendai
Delta Air Lines has suspended flights to and from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Its Tokyo-Narita hub continues to operate normally.
Qantas, SAS, Alitalia and KLM airlines have temporarily moved Tokyo flights to Osaka or added an intermediate stop to Tokyo
United Airlines and Continental Airlines are maintaining their normal schedules and monitoring the situation
American Airlines is maintaining its normal schedule, but offers customers the option to change their travel plans.
The U.S. State Department is sending chartered planes to Narita and Haneda airports to begin evacuating U.S. citizens beginning March 17th. There will be a limited number of seats available, and priority will be given to passengers with medical emergencies or severe medical conditions.
Passengers will be taken to a “safe haven” and are expected to make their own way home from that point. Payment is not expected upon boarding, but passengers will be expected to reimburse the government at a later date. The State Department also warned those planning to board evacuation planes to "be prepared for a substantial wait at the airport” and to “bring food, water, diapers and other necessary toiletries."
The Travel Insurance Select plan available through USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services includes Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, and Travel Delay coverage due to the Insured’s residence or destination being made uninhabitable by natural disaster. The plan must have been purchased before Thursday, March 10, 2011, for coverage to be in effect.
Policyholders affected by the earthquake can also receive emergency travel assistance for things such as flight and hotel booking, wire transfers, message relay and more by calling 1-866-346-1803 or 1-715-342-3541 (collect). Assistance representatives have access to up-to-date information regarding airline schedules and airport closures, and can help insured passengers make alternate travel arrangements.