Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai turned back over Taiwan reference

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

Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai turned back over Taiwan reference

An Air New Zealand Dreamliner has touched down in Shanghai after an administrative blunder meant a flight at the weekend had to return to Auckland.

Air New Zealand apologized for the inconvenience experienced by its customers and was "deeply disappointed and frustrated by the situation", reported AP.

The airline, the New Zealand government and Chinese authorities have all said it was due to an administrative issue.

Air New Zealand did not respond to questions about a Taiwan link but said "as is required, the application includes a list of destinations the airline operates to, including Taipei".

The incident marks yet another arbitrary move by Beijing to impose its ideology upon foreign companies, following the CAA order on April 24 of previous year that forced airlines to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, which the U.S. White House called "Orwellian nonsense". DPA added that that the aircraft returned to Auckland about five hours after taking off and did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land.

China has postponed a major tourism campaign in New Zealand just days before its launch while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to Beijing has been further delayed as concerns mount that China's growing influence in the Pacific is straining ties.

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Independent aviation commentator Irene King said such an incident was highly unusual and knew of only one other instance of this happening with an Air New Zealand aircraft.

In a statement, Air New Zealand said a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that joined its fleet late a year ago was not yet certified to fly to China but was "unfortunately assigned" for the Shanghai flight.

The incident has created a potential headache for New Zealand's government, which has recently suffered frosty relations with Beijing.

"In the past New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front, that's in New Zealand's best interests. But they (China) remain an incredibly important economic and people-to-people partner", she stressed, citing the ongoing exhibition of China's famed Terracotta Warriors at the National Museum of New Zealand as a sign of strong ties.

"Our relationship with China is a complex relationship and sometimes it will have its challenges", Ardern told TVNZ in an interview. She said: "I have been issued with an invitation to visit China - that has not changed".

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