Passengers have reported spending $120 on taxis and missing a day's work after an Air NZ flight to Queenstown wound up back in Auckland.

Last Wednesday, an Air NZ flight from Auckland at 2.20pm had to be redirected to Christchurch after strong tailwinds prevented it from landing at Queenstown.

The plane then returned to Auckland five hours later.

Passengers accused the airline of poor communication and treating them "like cattle" after the debacle left them right back where they started.


After touching back down in Auckland about 7pm, the passengers of Air NZ flight 623 were booked into the Holiday Inn airport hotel for the night and put on a flight back to Queenstown for the next morning.

But passenger Barbara Sorensen said those living in Auckland were not compensated and had to find their own way to and from the airport.

"We were told that Auckland residents were expected to return home and return to the airport the following day," she said.

"This meant for me a $120 taxi ride home and a 5.30am start back to the airport the following morning.

"Although we arrived safely in Queenstown to whooping and applause I lost a day's work and was exhausted. No compensation for transport home in Auckland and back to the airport was offered."

Sorensen said it was quite a "cavalier and arrogant attitude" for Air NZ to say it "appreciated the passengers' patience".

"I would expect better from such a lauded airline," she said.

During the flight, however, attendants and crew were "terrific", she said.


Another woman on the flight said there had been poor communication during the flight.

Last Wednesday, Air NZ flight 623 from Auckland to Queenstown had to be redirected to Christchurch, before returning to Auckland five hours later. Photo / File
Last Wednesday, Air NZ flight 623 from Auckland to Queenstown had to be redirected to Christchurch, before returning to Auckland five hours later. Photo / File

An attendant told her row mate there was a one-and-a-half hour wait for the domestic gates, and there also were not enough seats from Christchurch to Queenstown the next day for everyone.

"With the return to Auckland Air NZ could put on a full plane, which was the decision they went with."

However, none of this information was relayed to other customers, she said.

Back in Auckland, customers spent another hour waiting in line to arrange accommodation.

"With the number of Air New Zealand staff employed, and the fact that there were no flights checking in at that time, I would have expected at least one or two other staff to be present."

She, too, said she was offered no compensation for organising accommodation with family, and missing a day of work.

"While everyone understood the flight was aborted for safety reasons, the lack of communication on the flight and once we landed left a lot to be desired."

Passengers Joel Herbert and Kimberly Davis were on board with their 16-month-old baby and told the Herald what happened on the Christchurch airport tarmac and from that point on was a "shambles".

"People were losing their minds, they were incredibly angry, particularly people who were coming in from overseas, who only have a finite amount of time in the South Island, they'd lost an extra day," Herbert said.

Another woman on the flight praised the crew and the captain, and disputed that people were "losing their minds".

"The captain was very clear why we could not land and Christchurch was the obvious choice to go to.

"He was concise and came on quite often to explain things.

"I was not aware of any anger or frustration by the passengers. The plane was cool with lots of fresh air, no one appeared visibly angry and there were no raised or angry voices.

"I can understand it was difficult for parents, but it is a gross exaggeration to say people were losing their minds. It was an inconvenience - but that can happen when flying."

An Air NZ spokeswoman told the Herald the reason passengers could not disembark in Christchurch was because the plane was parked at an international gate.

This meant the passengers would have needed to make their way through Customs on arrival, which Air NZ said was not usual process for customers travelling domestically.

"Customers were not offered the opportunity to disembark in Christchurch as this would have caused significant further delays for the majority of customers still onboard while the corresponding baggage was located and offloaded and clearance was arranged through Customs," the spokeswoman said.

As much was done as possible to make the passengers' redirected flight tolerable, including making tea, coffee, water and snacks available to passengers, she said.

"We don't carry baby food on domestic flights but crew offered milk to the parents of two babies onboard. Both babies also had food available to them," she said.

"We believe our people did the best they could under a challenging set of circumstances. We appreciate that this was a frustrating and disappointing situation for our customers and we thank them for their patience."