Air New Zealand pilots were stuck on a damaged aircraft in Hong Kong for hours after being forced to divert to the territory.
Authorities refused entry of the crew into Hong Kong - which has extremely strict entry protocols - after the Boeing 787 freight flight diverted from Guangzhou on the Chinese mainland after it suffered a cracked windscreen. The aircraft had taken off from Christchurch on Wednesday.
While the air crew is now back home, New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association president Andrew Ridling described the situation as challenging.
"The unexpected arrival of an aircraft and its crew into Hong Kong presented some serious challenges with how the crew were subsequently handled. The Hong Kong authorities refused to process the crew which left them in a position of having to remain on the aircraft until a suitable extraction opportunity was presented."
Once the initial concerns were resolved, the association's focus turned to the welfare of the crew.
"We anticipate meeting with Air New Zealand to review the learnings in light of their risk mitigations," Ridling said.
Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer David Morgan said the crew remained on the aircraft as they did not meet the entry requirements for Hong Kong.
"While a cracked windscreen sounds extraordinary, there are four layers to an aircraft windscreen so there was no risk to the aircraft or anyone on board."
The plane was carrying more than 24 tonnes of cargo to Guangzhou, most of it perishable goods like fresh cherries, stone fruit and seafood for the Chinese New Year festivities.
Morgan said recovering this service was important to prevent significant cost to our Kiwi export customers.
"On the ground in Hong Kong, the team were fortunately able to secure chiller space for the fresh produce while we worked on a solution. After exploring trucking options as well as options with our alliance and interline partners, the team secured space with a partner airline to make sure the cargo got to where it needed to be."
He said the aircraft was awaiting a replacement windscreen from Boeing in Singapore and would return to New Zealand once the repair was completed.
Hong Kong has extremely strict Covid-19 protocols and air crew face long periods in an isolation facility if they have been exposed to the disease.