WELLINGTON • An Air New Zealand flight was forced to return to Auckland while already halfway to Shanghai yesterday, after it was found that the aircraft was not allowed to land in China.
"Flight NZ289 Auckland to Shanghai returned to Auckland around 4-1/2 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 yesterday.
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 yesterday.
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. Last 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.
The approximate number of hours NZ289 was into its Auckland-to-Shanghai flight when it had to turn back.
"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 on Sunday," the airline told DPA.
"We know that customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans."