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United Airlines Flight Stuck on Tarmac for 7 Hours in Canberra

Airline passengers stranded on tarmac for hours 0:59

Passengers aboard a 15-hour United Airlines flight from San Francisco found themselves stranded in a "no man's land" for an extra seven hours after their plane was diverted.

A temporary runway closure in Sydney, Australia, forced Flight UA863 to instead land in Canberra, which is located about 180 miles southwest of the jet's intended destination.

The weary travelers were then forced wait another seven hours until the plane could refuel and new pilots could be found to fly the aircraft to Sydney.

Fabio Calabria, 27, who was traveling home to see family for Christmas, described the delay as "frustrating."

He added: "We sat on the plane for around three and a half hours. Then we were allowed off the plane and got to stretch our legs on the tarmac."

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the situation occurred because customs and immigration facilities were not available at Canberra's airport.

Authorities provided "an area outside the aircraft in which passengers can get fresh air and stretch their legs without formally clearing the border," a spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection agency told ABC.

After the seven-hour delay, the flight finally made its way to Sydney and landed at around 5:45 p.m. local time (1:45 a.m. ET) on Friday.

"It’s an unusual one, and it wasn’t anything that United did wrong at all," airline spokeswoman Karen May told NBC News. "It was a result of what was going on at the runway in Sydney."

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- Richie Duchon