Pilots of an Air New Zealand plane turned it back after take-off because they believed a wheel in the main landing gear had "made contact with an object on departure", a spokeswoman from the national carrier has confirmed.

Flight NZ5759 from Christchurch to Dunedin returned to Christchurch as a precaution after the incident on Friday evening, the spokeswoman said.

"The aircraft made a normal landing at 8pm and will be inspected by engineers."

She did not have further details on the incident.


A passenger on the plane, an ATR-72 turboprop, said the plane turned back about halfway through the flight and while it was at cruise altitude.

"Air hostesses said we hit something and needed to head back to get checked."

There was no bump or any indication they had hit anything, he said.

Flight Radar 24 showed the flight left Christchurch at 7.12pm and turned back about 7.40pm.

The Air New Zealand spokeswoman said affected customers would be accommodated on alternative services on Saturday.

Those needing accommodation had been provided with hotel rooms.