A passenger aboard an Air New Zealand flight that was struck by lightning has commended the professionalism of crew staff after the great "flash" reduced some passengers to tears.

Air New Zealand flight 8151 from Auckland to Rotorua was turned around after lightning struck the plane in the Rotorua area, sending it back to Auckland..

Gavin Long, of Rotorua, was almost home from a conference when the plane which was approaching the Rotorua airport came across some "really atrocious" weather.

"Then there was a bang and a flash that filled the plane with light for a second.

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"It [Lightning] hit the left wing but I couldn't see any damage. "

He said the pilot emerged from the cockpit and told the passengers to not worry as the plane could handle such a strike, but that didn't stop some people from becoming watery eyed.

"There were two kids flying alone and they were in tears. A couple of passengers looked teary eyed but it was so well handled by the Air New Zealand staff."

The plane pulled up from the landing approach pattern and began climbing, passengers were told the aircraft had to return to Auckland to be inspected by engineers.

Upon arriving in Auckland safe and sound all passengers received a text from Air New Zealand telling them they would catch the next flight to Rotorua at 4.15pm.

Long commended the calmness and professionalism of the crew staff.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said flight 8151 departed Auckland at 11.35am carrying 33 passengers but was redirected to Auckland after being hit by lightning.

"Lightning strikes are not uncommon. Aircraft are designed with this in mind and our pilots train for this scenario."

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