A minor fire in Terminal 1 of New York's Kennedy Airport led to serious consequences — another 16-hour flight to nowhere. An Air New Zealand flight from Auckland was forced to return home after it had already crossed half of the Pacific on its way to New York.
The fire broke out early Thursday morning and was quickly and safely extinguished. However, he managed to create problems by damaging the power grid, leaving the entire terminal without electricity.
Terminal 1 serves about 20 foreign airlines, and while some carriers were able to redirect their aircraft to other terminals, others were told that there are simply no seats available and that they will not be allowed to land at JFK on Thursday.
Air New Zealand was on a list of unconfirmed who would not be allowed to land at JFK, but found out when its ultra-long haul NZ2 flight from Auckland to New York had already departed.
By the time the Boeing 787 Dreamliner pilots found out that power in Terminal 1 would not be restored by the time they arrived, they had already been in the air for more than eight hours.
The pilots reportedly offered to at least fly passengers to the US. Messages from the cockpit show how the pilots requested that the plane be rerouted to Houston, where passengers could transfer to domestic flights or wait in hotels before continuing on to JFK.
After this idea was rejected, the pilots made another attempt to “level the situation”; — make a quick pit stop and crew change in some other US city before continuing on to New York. The airline also rejected the idea.
Instead, the plane was forced to make a 180-degree turn and head straight back to Auckland, where passengers and crew landed 16 hours after departure.
An airline spokesman, however, defended his decision to return to Auckland, saying that “a redirection to another US airport would mean the plane would remain on the ground for several days, affecting a number of other scheduled flights and hundreds of passengers.”
It wasn't just the airline's flight AZ2 passengers Air New Zealand. A number of other aircraft were also forced to either divert or return to their origin, including Korean Air Flight KE85 from Seoul, which returned to South Korea after more than five hours in the air.
Several other flights managed to divert to other New York airports.
The Air New Zealand story comes less than a month after Emirates completed a 14-hour flight to nowhere when Dubai – Auckland was forced to turn around in the air due to bad weather that flooded the international terminal of Auckland Airport.