WELLINGTON (DPA) - An Air New Zealand flight was forced to return to Auckland halfway to Shanghai on Sunday (Feb 10) after it was found the aircraft was not allowed to land in China.
"Flight 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," the carrier told DPA in a statement on Sunday.
It could not immediately confirm what type of plane was involved or how many passengers and crew were affected.
The flight had taken off as scheduled about midnight Sunday (5am Singapore time).
The pilot later told those on board that "Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around", passenger and American academic Eric Hundman told the New Zealand Herald.
"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 assistant professor at New York University Shanghai added.
Air New Zealand began flying from Auckland to Shanghai in June 2006.
In August, flight NZ289 was forced to return to Auckland less than an hour after taking off due to a possible technical issue which was later ruled out.
"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," the airline told DPA.
"We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans."