An Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai turned back mid-flight after the airline discovered it did not have permission to land because paperwork had not been filed.
It is understood Flight NZ289, carrying about 270 passengers, was operated by a newer Boeing 787-9 aircraft not yet been entered in a database of planes allowed to land in China.
The airline told media it had followed the normal process of getting a flight plan cleared prior to departure by Chinese authorities.
But it turned out during the flight that the aircraft operating did not have the appropriate approval.
“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,” it said in a statement Monday.
Eric Hundman, an assistant professor at the Shanghai campus of New York University, told the New Zealand Herald the flight had taken as scheduled just before midnight on Saturday night.
“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,’’ he said.
Air New Zealand apologized to passengers and said a special service would fly them to Shanghai at 11 pm on Sunday.
“We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans,” it said.
The turn-back attracted international attention and comes after the New Zealand carrier recently withdrew its latest safety video after heavy criticism.
“It’s Kiwi Safety” featured New Zealand musicians rapping about aircraft safety and was seen as a rare misstep for a carrier that pioneered attention-grabbing safety videos.
It was replaced after three controversial months by an earlier safety video, Summer of Safety.
Despite the criticism, a tongue-in-cheek advertisement posted by the airline for a new head of safety videos said “It’s Kiwi Safety” had attracted 21 million online views.