TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's government on Wednesday (Nov. 24) explained that United Airlines' denial of a Taiwanese man's transit through Guam over the Medigen COVID-19 vaccine was caused by their "misunderstanding" of regulations.
That afternoon, news broke that a Taiwanese man who was flying to Palau to complete his alternative military service was denied transit through Guam because United Airlines personnel believed that regulations did not permit recipients of the Medigen vaccine to transfer through the U.S. territory.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release on Wednesday evening explaining that four men taking part in alternative military service were sent to serve in Palau via an EVA Air flight to Narita International Airport in Tokyo on Nov. 21. Once in Tokyo, they were to transfer to a United Airlines flight to Guam.
Three of the four men were able to transit through Guam and arrive in Palau on Nov. 22. However, one of the men was denied entry to his flight to Guam by United Airlines staff, since they believed he could not meet Guam's vaccine requirements for transit with the Taiwan-made vaccine.
Despite several attempts to resolve the situation, the airline ultimately refused to allow the man to board, and the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) had to arrange for a flight for him to return to Taiwan on Nov. 23. According to Executive Order No. 2021-29 of the Governor's Office of Guam issued on Nov. 19, incoming travelers can receive an exemption from quarantine if they present proof of a full vaccination with a jab approved by the FDA or WHO, "or a negative PCR or antigen test."
After the incident, the Taiwan representative office in Guam immediately consulted with the Governor's Office of Guam and the Guam Visitors Bureau and verified that the incident was caused by a "unilateral decision" by United Airlines staff at Narita Airport, "who were not familiar with the latest update to Guam's entry regulations." The Governor's Office pledged that it will once again notify United Airlines and other carriers and that it is coordinating with other government departments to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
The man has safely returned to Taiwan, where the ICDF has made arrangements for him to stay in an epidemic prevention hotel. The ICDF will soon arrange for the man to take another flight to Palau.
During a press conference on Thursday, a member of the media asked Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) to comment on the incident. Chuang confirmed that United Airlines staff had "misunderstood" Guam's regulations and that the man should have been able to fly to the territory.