LONDON – When passengers Air New Zealand flight NZ2 bound for New York from Auckland on Thursday evening, little did they know that it was going to become a return flight.
The Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner had departed Auckland normally, bound for New York JFK International Airport.
The flight was well underway and cruising over the Pacific Ocean when it was forced to make an unscheduled turnaround and return to Auckland.
The reason for the rebound flight was a power outage suffered at John F Kennedy Airport. The airport announced via social media channels that a fire in its Terminal 1 facility had rendered the airport unable to process inbound or outbound flights.
The airport stated that: “The power outage was caused by an electrical panel failure, which also caused a small isolated fire overnight that was immediately extinguished.”
The fire may well have been immediately extinguished, however the anguish for passengers aboard NZ2 was not so immediate, with the aircraft making a marathon round-trip of just over 16 hours by the time it returned to Auckland.
The Washington Post has reported that several other inbound international flights suffered a similar fate, with flights from Seoul, Rome and Milan being forced to make a return to their departure airports.
Other flights were subsequently diverted to alternative US airports. The question naturally arose as to why the New Zealand flag carrier could not simply divert flight NZ2 in a similar manner to a US alternate.
According to the Washington Post, the airline stated that a diversion to an alternate airport would have been “too disruptive for the carrier’s operations.”
Air New Zealand first commenced the New York service with its flagship aircraft on xxx. The long-haul route operates out of Auckland International Airport thrice weekly on a year-round basis.
A glance at the airline’s website finds the carrier touting the fact that “you can seamlessly connect through Auckland for a smooth travel experience all the way to New York.”
After over 16 hours in the air on a flight that their Aussie neighbours across the Tasman would refer to as a “boomerang” will likely seem the furthest from a seamless experience to the passengers of yesterday’s NZ2 service.
A long week for Air New Zealand
It will probably seem like a long week the New Zealand national flag carrier, after the havoc caused by Cyclone Gabrielle saw the suspension of all domestic operations and the bulk of the carriers international scheduled services on Tuesday.
With an adverse weather conditions predicted to lift on Wednesday, the airline planned a phased resumption of jet and turboprop operations.
However, increased wind gusts through the afternoon, forced the airline to again halt its domestic and international operations out of Auckland, resulting in a further 300 cancelled services.
A total of 821 cancelled flights and 49,000 impacted customers has resulted since Cyclone Gabrielle began.
Hopefully a new week will bring smooth the skies for the national carrier.