Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai turned away on Taiwan reference

The flight was not allowed to land at Shanghai airport The flight was not allowed to land at Shanghai airport Credit Reuters
Kenny Thornton | 12 February, 2019, 13:40

Opponents and local media reports questioned if an Air New Zealand flight which was recently refused entry to China may be a part of the deteriorating relationship, although the airline, the government and Chinese authorities have all said it was due to some administrative issue.

The pilot later told those on board that "Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around", passenger and American academic Eric Hundman told the New Zealand Herald.

Now that we believe we know the real reason why flight NZ289 came back to Auckland - that the airline had not yet submitted paperwork which satisfied Beijing's officious approach to any suggestion that Taiwan might be independent - the episode seems more understandable.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the Chinese let the government know a few weeks ago that there was a scheduling issue, and the event would happen eventually.

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight on Saturday only to return about 10 am on Sunday (2100 GMT Saturday).

The same flight, NZ289, was turned back on a flight to China on August 24 past year, although an airline spokeswoman said that was due to an engineering issue, not a permitting one.

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The unorthodox incident has prompted speculation the issue with the plane's paperwork was due to an error in the airline referring to the city of Taipei as the capital of Taiwan rather than a city in China.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Air New Zealand for comment.

She conceded that China and New Zealand have a "complex relationship" which has "its challenges".

Relations between China and New Zealand have been strained in recent months after New Zealand's spy agency in November halted mobile company Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G upgrade. Both countries claim sovereignty over the other.

China has a history of demanding worldwide airlines not refer to Taiwan's independence or nationhood on its websites or promotional material, and in the past has urged Qantas, Air Canada and others to change how it refers to the island. "But actually the decision around 5G and how that is rolled out is governed by a regulation, a process that checks that whatever decision we make is in the best interest of New Zealanders data and security", she said.

"We've not received any communication of this nature", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said at the time. The flight returned to Auckland.

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