Long-haul NZ-China flight forced back mid-flight

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight yesterday only to return about 10am today. — Reuters pic

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a flight from New Zealand to China was turned back for administrative reasons and the incident has no bearing on the relationship between the two nations.

Last year, New Zealand issued a defence policy statement in which it said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

The Air New Zealand flight was refused entry into Shanghai yesterday and had to turn back with airport officials saying the flight had no regulatory authority to land there.

Air New Zealand began flying from Auckland to Shanghai in June 2006. "In this case they were using a temporary plane which wasn't registered, hence the effect", the prime minister explained.

"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.

The rescheduled flight landed in Shanghai on Monday, data from flight tracking website FlightAware shows.

"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".

Ardern had received an invitation to visit the communist country to meet Premier Li Keqiang past year, however the invitation was put on ice after New Zealand's chief spy agency, the GCSB, made a decision to nix plans to allow Huawei to build the country's 5G network, according to Otago Daily Times.

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Scheduling clashes happen - we all have to postpone sometimes.

Dismissing such conjectures as "irresponsible", Ardern accused the opposition of spreading "misinformation".

"In the past, New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front". "That was a effect", she said.

The passenger told the Samoa Observer that the elderly woman had cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) administered to her, but it appears she did not survive the emergency procedure.

The prime minister asserted that despite complexities in ties, Auckland's relationship remains robust. "Is it part of the ongoing deterioration in relations between this NZ Govt & China?"

Ardern's remarks followed questions by some politicians and analysts whether the incident pointed to broader issues in New Zealand's ties to its key trading partner.

MBIE officials are working with China to try to reschedule the official opening.

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