Passengers aboard a New York-bound Air New Zealand flight had quite the surprise when their journey from Auckland turned into a 16-hour trip to nowhere.
NZ2 – operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZQ (c/n 39296) – departed the Kiwi city at 8.20pm local time on February 16. However, instead of landing at its scheduled destination of New York/JFK, the widebody made a U-turn in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It then made a step climb from 37,000ft up to 40,000ft where it remained for the return leg.
After 16 hours and 5 minutes in the air, the aircraft touched down back in Auckland at 12.25pm the following day.
The reason for the diversion is thought to be related to a power outage at JFK Terminal 1 which is affecting the airport’s ability to accept inbound and outbound flights.
In a statement, the hub said: “JFK Terminal 1 will remain closed on [February 17] due to electrical issues as the Port Authority continues working with the terminal’s operator to restore flight operations as quickly as possible.”
The Auckland-New York/JFK route is relatively new for Air New Zealand. The direct connection was launched on September 17, 2022, and is a major component of the flag carrier’s post-pandemic rebound.
In response to a question on Twitter, Flightradar24 says its “entirely possible” that the NZ2 diversion is the longest flight to nowhere in history, “but we can definitely say it's the longest diversion this year,” it adds.
The Kiwi operator’s flight was not the only one disrupted by the terminal closure. Korean Air flight KE85 suffered a similar fate when it landed back at Seoul/Incheon after 13 hours in the air. The Boeing 777-300ER, HL8041 (c/n 60375) turned around as it approached the Fox Islands off the coast of Alaska.