A passenger on board an aborted flight to Queenstown says people were screaming and being sick as they endured turbulence so severe it left them airborne in their seats.
The South Island has been warned to brace for significantly strong winds with gusts of up to 150km/h this afternoon and evening.
Dylan Steele, 18, was on an 8.30am Jetstar flight from Auckland to Queenstown when “all hell broke loose” as the plane started its descent.
“Everyone was just screaming and throwing up on the flight,” Steele said.
“I was next to the wing, so I was looking out the window and all I saw was the wing flapping like a bloody feather. It was just wild, I have never experienced turbulence that bad in my life. It felt like a rollercoaster ride.”
A Jetstar spokesperson said they sincerely apologise to customers for the disruption.
”Our teams are working to get customers to their destination as quickly as possible, however safety is our first priority.”
Strong winds in Queenstown have affected flights across several airlines today.
The plane was going up and then dropping again rapidly, Steele said.
“I was airborne on my seat, it was just so wild.
“All I could hear was the sounds of people being sick and that was with headphones on.”
Steele said he was terrified and started saying his goodbyes thinking: “This might be me”.
The pilot soon announced they were turning back to Auckland and a wave of relief washed over Steele when they finally landed back on solid ground.
“Everyone was just pretty shaken up and shocked.”
Steele hoped to get on another flight tomorrow but said there was a lot of confusion at the airport.
MetService has warned of widespread damaging severe gales across much of the South Island and lower North Island today, with brief heavy rain for western areas.
MetService meteorologist Ngaire Wotherspoon said severe northwesterly gales are expected to gust 120km/h, perhaps reaching 140 km/h in the Canterbury High Country.
Wind gusts of this strength could damage trees, powerlines, and unsecured structures, and could make driving hazardous.
A strong, showery southwesterly change will bring further severe gales later today. Damaging gusts could reach 130km/h in Southland and Otago, and snow is possible to 500 metres.
“Queenstown and Dunedin are particularly vulnerable to this change, especially after the flooding in Queenstown last week softened the ground, affecting tree stability in strong wind,” Wotherspoon said.
Winds and showers are forecast to ease tonight and Tuesday is set to bring colder but calmer weather.