Our national carrier has been struck by its second turnaround drama within a week.
Air New Zealand Flight 289 was forced to turn back midway through its flight to Shanghai last night, according to passenger Eric Hundman.
Hundman, an assistant professor at NYU's Shanghai campus, told the Herald the flight took off from Auckland as scheduled close to midnight last night but "midway through our flight, the pilot informs us that Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around. A permitting issue, supposedly," he says.
The flight returned to Auckland around 9.30am this morning, Hundman says.
Shortly after 11.30am this morning, Hundman was sent a txt from Air NZ saying "As you were advised onboard, the aircraft operating your flight did not have regulatory approval to land in China and was required to return to Auckland."
An Air NZ spokeswoman tells the Herald:
"NZ289 Auckland to Shanghai returned to Auckland around four and a half to five hours into its journey after it was discovered a technicality meant the particular aircraft operating this service did not have Chinese regulatory authority to land in China.
"Customers will be accommodated for the day at hotels or at the airport's Strata Lounge before they depart for Shanghai on a special service at 11pm this evening.
I’ve just experienced a new level of China Bad: midway through our flight from Auckland to Shanghai, the pilot informs us that Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around. A permitting issue, supposedly. pic.twitter.com/7dJEYjp1bt— Eric Hundman | 何諳銳 (@ehundman) February 9, 2019
"We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans."
Hundman says, "I would be stunned if Air NZ had allowed a plane full of passengers to take off without being quite sure they would be able to land it in Shanghai."
The Herald has asked Air NZ for elabouration on that point.
Reparations offered so far has been meagre, Hundman says.
"We were given hotel vouchers for the Crowne Plaza, $30 of meal vouchers for use at the airport, and taxi vouchers. There's been no compensation offered for time lost or hassle Hundman says.
Hundman was allowed out of the airport to rest at the Plaza because he had a visa. Those who did not had to camp out at the Strata Lounge - the so-called "second class" option.
He says passengers were woken up by the pilot with the turnaround announcement four or five hours into the flight. He was one of a handful travelling business class, so could only gauge the reaction of a handful of passengers around him, but he says all were shocked.
Hundman tweeted as the flight returned to Auckland:
The incident comes just days after an Auckland-Queenstown flight was forced to turn around, with passengers reportedly "losing their minds" amid poor communication and a five-hour delay.