Domestic flights across the country are being cancelled in the aftermath of a radar fault which grounded planes across New Zealand.

It has left passengers stranded across the country and looking to Air New Zealand for answers.

Tony Skerten has been at Auckland Airport since 1pm this afternoon.

He was due to fly to Nelson at 2.40pm, but instead sat on the runway for an hour before being brought back into the departure terminal.

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"Got delayed slightly, went out on the runway in the plane, sat out there for an hour, engine going. A few other flights took off."

Mr Skerten said there was no space on the next flight to Nelson, but he was hoping to get on the delayed flight at 6.10pm.

"It would have been nice to have got the taxi home and picked the cat up, [will] get the cat tomorrow now."

He said Air New Zealand had kept passengers well informed while on the runway, "which was good".

Carly Tippler waited in line ninety minutes after her flight to Napier was cancelled just as she was about to board her flight.

She and fellow flyer Nick Smith were flying to Hawke's Bay for funerals tomorrow morning, and keen to avoid further delays.

As time dragged on, both were considering alternatives, such as rental cars, buses, trains and lifts with friends.

At about 6pm Air New Zealand told Ms Tippler it could arrange overnight accommodation, then a flight to Auckland, then a flight to Napier, to arrive at about 10am.

"But I've decided that if anything was to happen to those flights, I would miss the funeral entirely. So I've forfeited all of their offers, which unfortunately means I won't be getting refunds or anything back. "

Instead, Ms Tippler would stay with friends and get a lift to Napier at 6am tomorrow.

She said the episode had cost her several hundred dollars but Air New Zealand said it would refund some of her costs for "compassionate" reasons.

"I don't know what I'll be out of pocket yet."

She said she'd worked in the travel industry and knew what a "absolute nightmare" it was for staff involved.

"I have no doubt that they're doing everything they can. It's just a slow process regardless."

Further back in the queue, Barbara Bateman and Tanya Penny were also keen to find out what solutions the airline had in store.

Both were frustrated but said there wasn't much point complaining.

Mrs Bateman had been stuck at the airport at least seven hours after an earlier flight to Tauranga was cancelled for unrelated reasons.

She said some fellow flyers responded admirably to the delays.

"A lady and a man came up and offered another lady a bed for the night," Mrs Bateman said. "It brings out the best in people."

At Tauranga Airport, Wellingtonian Catherine Novak was made to wait for another two hours to catch a flight home that was supposed to have left at 4.55pm.

The delay meant she would not get home until just before 10pm, instead of her planned arrival time of just after 6pm.

Ms Novak, who was visiting Tauranga for an engineering conference, had considered staying another night but her company organised an alternative flight.

"Staying over was an option I was tossing up, but I thought it was just better to go home."
The reason for the delay had left her puzzled.

"I've never heard of a radar being down anywhere else before."

Earlier, passengers in Tauranga onboard a Christchurch-bound plane that was supposed to depart a plane at 3.25pm were told soon after they were boarded that the flight had been grounded.

One of the passengers, a Winton resident who had been holidaying in Papamoa, has decided to stay on another night.

"We were all boarded and ready to go and then they announced there had been a radar system problem, so they got us off," said the woman, who asked not to be named.

"It doesn't really upset any of my plans, and it's probably quite good - I get to stay another night here."

But it wasn't so convenient for Kayla Gardyne, who was left worrying about missing her connecting flight from Christchurch to Dunedin.

The delay also meant that her two-hour drive from Dunedin home to Gore would be potentially much more dangerous later at night, in freezing conditions, said her grandparents Sibyl and Jack Grant, who saw her off at the terminal.

Her cousin David Manning was also at the airport farewelling his wife Moira, who was on the same delayed flight down to Christchurch.

Stranded passengers at Wellington Airport domestic terminal wait for information on their flights.

The wait had been made all the more anxious by their children, Ailish, 3, and Patrick, 1, growing impatient and upset.

"They've been getting quite restless over it."

At Auckland airport, Hemi Takarua had just learned the 4.25pm flight to New Plymouth had been cancelled.

He said he was stranded and hoping Air New Zealand would compensate him for the delay.

"If I'm staying tonight, Air New Zealand should pay. It was just a day trip for me. I've got to go home...I've got to go to work."

Brent Snooks was on the same flight and was lining up to try and find another way to New Plymouth.

"They haven't really offered any sort of alternate transportation to get down, or accommodation for overnight."

Across the country, about 160 of Air NZ's international and domestic flights had been affected. As the international flights cleared, cancellations were announced for a raft of domestic routes.

Air NZ flights out of Auckland, Christchurch, Tauranga and Wellington were among those cancelled. A Jetstar spokesman said six of its flights had been affected with passengers suffering at most a 90 minute delay.

In Christchurch, passengers who had checked in their luggage have been asked to pick it up from the baggage carousel and report to the Air New Zealand service desk.

Passengers to New Plymouth were told to report to the check-in counter for overnight accommodation.

Stranded passengers wait for information on their flights.

First reports of problems came through about 2.50pm. Airways New Zealand reported the radar problem was partially fixed at 4pm and was completely operational again at 4.30pm.

Minister of Transport Simon Bridges said there had been an "outage to the nationwide air radar network". He said the cause was unknown.

All departures have been suspended and the landing of any incoming aircraft is being staggered . Air traffic control is still able to communicate with any incoming planes via radio contact." He said he had been assured passengers were never at risk.

Jill Dixon and her grandson Jacob Ellery said their flight to Tauranga was cancelled this morning for reasons unexplained, then the radar glitch hit, delaying a second flight.

She and Jacob learned only a few minutes before boarding a 3.35pm flight that they would have to stay put.

Palmerston North's Ms Dixon said Air New Zealand should put her and Jacob up for the night and pay her airport parking fees which she estimated had increased by $45.

Brisbane resident Anna Lane had planned to fly from Wellington to Napier to visit her mum, who is recovering from a hip operation. She says she only just arrived in Wellington when she found out her next flight was cancelled.

As it became clear international flights would take priority, Ms Lane said she expected to be delayed for hours. "There's nothing we can do so there's no use getting upset about it." She said she would hire a car and drive to Hawkes Bay rather than spend a night in Wellington.

At Christchurch International Airport, dozens of travellers had formed snaking queues at carriers' help desks.

Simon and Hilary Vallely, along with Bree (2 1/2) and baby Elsie, left Rarotonga at 3.30am. They were about to get on their third flight, from Christchurch to Dunedin, when their flight got cancelled and were now trying to work out how to get home."We might have to stay the night in Christchurch - these kids need to go to bed," he says.

Also at Christchurch, Geoff Neilson decided against waiting for a new flight to be scheduled and was planning on renting a car to drive to Dunedin. "We can hire a car and be well on the road but the time things are sorted here. There's nothing you can do about it."