An international flight at Auckland Airport has had to turn around on the tarmac after the captain reported a smell of smoke in the cabin.

An Auckland Airport spokesman said Air New Zealand flight NZ103 to Sydney was forced to abort its taxi to the runway after a strong smell of burning was detected on board the craft.

The plane, which was carrying 289 passengers, returned to the gate.

A passenger on board this morning's aborted trans-Tasman flight said she noticed a "really nasty" smell filter through the cabin as the Dreamliner taxied to the runway.

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Carole Kenealy was sitting in premium economy with husband Tim when an acrid odour circulated through the plane's ventilation system.

"The crew were obviously worried about it."

She said some passengers had reported seeing fire and smoke coming from one of the plane's engines.

A decision was made to stop on the tarmac and return to the departure gate on one engine.

Kenealy said the cabin crew and pilot reassured passengers they were in no immediate danger.

"The head attendant reassured us but the captain was just totally at ease and had the whole thing in control."

Passengers were taken off the plane and still waiting several hours later in the airport lounge to leave the country.

Despite the turn of events she was not put off flying and was looking forward to taking to the air once new plans were in place.