Qantas passengers' 6,500km ordeal after major airport turns flights away

Travellers wanting to celebrate New Year's Day overseas were treated to a six-hour flight to nowhere.

A Qantas plane was among hundreds of flights forced to turn around mid-air, after technical issues at a major international airport sparked chaos on New Year’s Day.

QF19 departed Sydney for Manila in the Philippines just after 12.30pm on Monday and turned back three hours into the journey, just as the plane had passed over Far North Queensland.

A total of 282 flights were either delayed, cancelled or diverted to other regional airports due to a malfunction of air traffic control, affecting around 56,000 passengers at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

After travelling roughly 6,500km during seven hours in the air, the flight touched down again in Sydney at 7.47pm, before refuelling and taking off again around 10pm.

A map shows Qantas flight QF19's journey over Australia after being turned back to Sydney.
The Qantas flight was turned back three hours into its journey (left), as flights avoid the air space over the Philippines (right). Source: Flight Radar 24

As of 4pm (local time) "the system has been partially restored thereby allowing limited flight operations", the Manila International Airport Authority said in a statement.

Video clips and photos posted on social media showed long queues at the airport and airline personnel distributing food packs and drinks to stranded passengers.

"We're told radar and navigation facilities at NAIA down. I was on my way home fm Tokyo - 3 hours into the flight, but had to return to Haneda," one passenger tweeted. "6 hours of useless flying but inconvenience to travellers and losses to tourism and business are horrendous. Only in the PH. Sigh.”

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific said there was a power outage and loss of communication at the Philippine Air Traffic Management Center. It offered passengers due to fly on Sunday free re-booking or the option to convert tickets to vouchers.

Philippine Airlines said a number of flights were diverted, cancelled and delayed, and travellers should check the status of their journey before proceeding to the airport.

Thousands of travellers were stranded at Philippines airports.
Thousands of travellers were stranded at Philippines airports after a "loss of communication" at the country's busiest hub in Manila forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, delayed or diverted. Source: Getty

Jetstar flight only 30 mins out of Bali forced to turn back

It comes just days after Jetstar travellers were turned away from Bali just half an hour before they were due to land. Passengers ended up spending almost 11 hours in the air just to land back in Melbourne again.

Jetstar admitted the flight was diverted due to a simple error.

“We swapped yesterday’s Melbourne to Bali service to a larger Boeing 787 aircraft to carry more customers during the holidays,” a spokesperson for the airline told Yahoo News Australia. “Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the swap to a larger aircraft had not been approved by the local regulator in Indonesia.”

As soon as Jetstar “became aware”, the flight was turned around and sent back to Melbourne.

with Reuters

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