On Wednesday, 8 November, an Air New Zealand flight departing from Auckland and headed for Chicago had to turn around mid-flight, resulting in an 11-hour “flight to nowhere”.
“Flight to nowhere” is a term used to describe flights that land back at the same airport they departed from without making any other stops in between, regardless of the reason for the turnaround.
Flight NZ26 departed around 8:30 pm local time on Wednesday, set for a 15-hour journey to Chicago. After about four and a half hours however, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner operating the flight turned around, heading back to Auckland. After another six and a half hours, the plane landed back where it started from around 7:30 am the following day, bringing the total time of the journey to about 11 hours.
An airline spokesperson later revealed that the reason for the turnaround was the discovery of a technical issue mid-flight which had to be addressed as soon as possible. Because the issue had to be further investigated upon landing, the flight could not be operated on the same aircraft and was ultimately cancelled, the spokesperson explained.
Passengers were soon rebooked on the next available flights, while work is being carried out to resolve the still unknown technical issue on the Dreamliner. “We thank customers for their patience while we work quickly to return the aircraft to operation”, the spokesperson said.
This is not the airline’s first flight to nowhere. According to Stuff, another Air New Zealand flight to Chicago made a turnaround mid-flight in June, after a fuel leak was discovered in one of the engines of a similar Dreamliner aircraft.
More recently, United Airlines operated a 13-hour long flight to nowhere on 9 October. Flight UA954, departing from San Francisco and headed to Tel Aviv, turned around about halfway into the journey due to safety concerns amid the Israel – Hamas war.