New Zealand PM: Air NZ flight incident will not impact China ties

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight yesterday only to return about 10am today. — Reuters pic

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight yesterday only to return about 10am today. — Reuters pic

"I've just experienced a new level of China Bad: midway through our flight from Auckland to Shanghai, the pilot informs us that Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around". The plane, which has not yet been confirmed, returned to Auckland about five hours after it took off and that it did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land.

Stuff has reported the delay was due not to problems with the relationship, but the flight's paperwork including references to Taiwan.

Mainland China (the People's Republic of China) refuses to have diplomatic relations with any country which recognises Taiwan (which calls itself the Republic of China) as an independent state.

"I think it is important to be really clear and not confuse administrative and regulatory issues as issues to do with the relationship", Ardern told a weekly news conference. According to sources "the Chinese were very explicit" about what the issue was, however the issue was not resolved.

Air New Zealand did not immediately respond to further questions on the incident.

In April 2018 the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) of China ordered a number of worldwide airlines to change how Taiwan was described on their websites and promotional material.

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Ardern's plans to visit Beijing a year ago were also put on hold due to scheduling problems, with her office saying in late November it was "difficult to find a time that suits everyone".

"It gets into the political situation and the way the different governments recognise or don't recognise states, and I would think Air New Zealand would be guided very much by what the New Zealand government position is ... therefore look at it in context of the New Zealand government's relationship with China".

In a statement late on Sunday, China's civil aviation regulator quoted the airline as having said the issue was due to "temporary improper allocation of the aircraft".

On the other, if China wanted to demonstrate its power to cause considerable pain to a country resisting its expansion, while causing relatively little pain to its own economy, New Zealand could be an attractive target.

China and New Zealand were quick to downplay the controversy.

Although Air NZ quickly acknowledged an unspecified "administrative issue", the highly unusual decision to return to Auckland when the plane was already well on the way meant questions were inevitably aimed at the Beehive.

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